Butcher set to take on English Channel

thisisoxfordshire: Matthew Alden, who will be swimming the English Channel Buy this photo » Matthew Alden, who will be swimming the English Channel

A BUTCHER from Oxford is set to face choppy waters in 12 days when he attempts to swim across the English Channel.

Matthew Alden, managing director of Meatmaster in Osney Mead, is trying to raise £10,000 for local charities, but his plans could be shipwrecked if the weather is not perfect in his five day ‘window’.

The swim, scheduled between September 23 to 27, could take anything between seven and 28 hours, but he has never swum for longer than eight hours in one stretch.

He said: “I am getting butterflies every time I think it is only a few weeks away.”

The businessman decided he needed to give himself a new challenge while he was relaxing on holiday.

“I was in France last year and I was sitting on the beach looking out to sea and I just thought “how do people swim that?”

“I just wanted a huge personal goal.

“It became pretty evident that I needed some work. For the past year I have been spending hundreds of hours working on technique, it has taken over everything.”

He has been training at weekends by swimming in open water in Dorset and Dover, eight hours on a Saturday and four on a Sunday.

He will swim from Shakespeare Beach in Dover to Cap Gris Nez in France, a distance of 18.1 nautical miles – or 20.8 ‘land’ miles.

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The 37-year-old butcher won’t be smearing himself with any goose fat, but he will apply a kilogram of vaseline to himself to stop chafing.

But all of Mr Alden’s hard work could all be undone if the weather on the day makes it too dangerous to swim.

“I have got two fears,” he said, “one is acclimatisation, getting too cold and catching hypothermia.

“The other is unpredictable weather, and the weather this year has been pretty awful.”

Mr Alden has registered with the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CSPF), which has given him a ‘swim window’ of a few days when he will have a chance, weather permitting, to complete his swim.

If he misses this window he will probably have to wait until next year if he wants to try again, and he won’t know until the day before which day he will be going out.

He also decided to use the opportunity to raise money for local hospices Sobell House , Helen and Douglas House, and the charity Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN).

He said: “It is nice to be able to help people and to see the smiles on their faces.

“KEEN is a very small charity, but it does give enjoyment to hundreds of people each year, and it relies entirely on donations to survive.”

So far he has raised £1,000 through his website and £1,000 in the shop. Last week, he started writing to Meatmaster’s suppliers to ask for donations.

To find out more or to make a donation visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/matthewaldenchannelswim2012

FACTFILE

NEARLY 1,500 people have swum the English Channel, and the success rate is one in five.

The world record was set on Saturday by Australian Trent Grimsey. He swam it in six hours 55 minutes.

The first solo swim across was completed by Captain Matthew Webb on August 24, 1875, in 21 hours 45 minutes. The slowest was by Jackie Cobell in 2010, who took 28 hours 44 minutes.

The youngest channel swimmer was Thomas Gregory, who made it across in 1988 at the age of 11, and the oldest was Roger Allsopp, 70, in 2011.

Since 1926, six people have died attempting the crossing.

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