Prior to 1964, there were only two relay teams that successfully crossed the English Channel: the Rotherham Neptunus Swim Club that went from England to France in 11 hours 20 minutes in 1950 and the Folkestone Swim Club that went from France to England in 14 hours 57 minutes in 1954.

Then, beginning in 1964, a slew of relay teams started to join the English Channel swimming fraternity:

City of London School for Girls in 1964 (F/E) 16:20
Denstone College in 1964 (F/E) 11:27
Spitalfields Market in 1964 (F/E) 14:36
Rochester Swim Club in 1965 (F/E) 10:47
British Petroleum Ltd Swim Club in 1965 (E/F) 13:37
- Phoenicians Swim Club in 1965 (F/E) in 9:58
- Middlesborough in 1965 (F/E) in 10:15
- Radcliffe Swim Club in 1966 (F/E) in 9:29
- Oundle School ’66 in 1966 (F/E) in 11:45
- Portsmouth & Southsea LGS in 1966 (F/E) in 12:06
- Girl Guide Association in 1966 (F/E) in 13:10
- NW Area Sea Cadets in 1966 (F/E) in 12:09
- St. Bernadetts Youth Club in 1966 (F/E) in 16:16
- Tunbridge Wells Monson Swim Club in 1966 (F/E) in 9:45
- St. Richards of Chichester in 1967 (F/E) in 14:09
- Stoke on Trent in 1967 (F/E) in 12:33
- Stoke on Trent in 1967 (E/F) in 17:39
- Pirelli General/Br.Transport in 1967 (F/E) in 13:57
- Tyldesley Swim Club (E/F) in 11:37
- Bank of England in 1967 (F/E) in 12:17
- International Relay in 1968 (E/F) in 10:37
- Monson Swim Club in 1968 (E/F) in 12:45
- 4th Btn. The Queens Regiment in 1968 (F/E) in 9:55
- Bolton Dolphins in 1969 (E/F) in 11:25
- Haagse Bluf Team in 1969 (E/F) in 9:29
- Lamorbey T. & Swim Club in 1969 (F/E) in 17:58

There are specific reasons for this relay boom in the English Channel that began in 1964. It is a learning experience and a steppingstone for solo Channel aspirants, a memorable way to experience marathon swimming with friends and teammates, and a means to generate additional income for escort pilots.

But why did six people become the norm?

And why did the one-hour rotations become the norm?

The concept of six people doing a relay had profound implications for the rest of the open water swimming relay world. Relays from the Maui Channel to the Catalina Channel adopted the standard six-person relay concept.

Dual International Swimming Hall of Fame and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee Michael Read recalls the history behind the English Channel relay rules. “Relay swimming was discussed at length by the Channel Swimming Association Committee in the early 1960′s. The discussion of relays came about due to the discussions with John Unicum Wood who did much to further channel swimming relationships and ideas. There were two main reasons for their instigation. Firstly, as a way of getting more people into channel swimming and, as a result, hopefully get a few solo attempts from the relay swimmers. Secondly, to generate more opportunities for the escort boatmen.”

Read recalls sitting with Wood and Captain Hutchinson when the idea was muted. The idea didn’t gain much initial steam because, among other issues, relays would be too difficult to organize, but Captain Hutchinson liked the concept. It was subsequently put to the Committee. The initial rules made it the same for all swims and the six-person, one-hour formula was set. Also, the Committee determined that if a swimmer could not complete his/her hour or swim when it was their turn, the team was disqualified. The rest, as evidenced by the number of relay teams over the past 5 decades, is history.

Of the hundreds of open water swimming relays currently conducted around the world, the rules of the Channel Swimming Association of the 1960′s were largely adopted by the global open water swimming community as is with a smattering of local changes. The representative 50 of the best, most popular, competitive and unique open water relays are listed below.

1. Rottnest Channel Swim Relay (19.7 km in Australia)
2. English Channel Relay (21 miles from England to France)
3. Catalina Channel Relay (20.2 miles from Catalina to California, U.S.A.)
4. Maui Channel Swim (9.6 miles from Lanai to Maui, Hawaii, U.S.A.)
5. Minnetonka Challenge Relay (5 miles in Minnesota, U.S.A.)
6. Magnetic Island to Townsville Open Water Swim Relay (8.5 km in Australia)
7. FKCC Swim Around Key West Relay (12.5 miles in Florida, U.S.A.)
8. Manhattan Island Relays (28.5 miles in New York, U.S.A.)
9. Swim Around Key West Relay (12.5 miles in Florida, U.S.A.)
10. Tampa Bay Marathon Swim Relay (24 miles in Florida, U.S.A.)
11. Fastnet Relay (15 km in Baltimore, Ireland{
12. Round Jersey Relay (41 miles around Jersey, United Kingdom)
13. Napo’opo’o to Honaunau Relay (Hawaii, U.S.A.)
14. International Self-Transcendence Marathon-Schwimmen Relay (26.4 km in Switzerland)
15. St. Petersburg to Kotlin Island Relay (24 km in Baltic Sea in Russia)
16. Beltquerung Relay (21 km from Denmark to Germany)
17. FINA World Swimming Championships Team Time Trial (5 km 3-person team pursuit)
18. Tsugaru Channel Relay (19.5 km from Honshu to Hokkaido in Japan)
19. Japan International Open Water Swimming Association (1.6 km in 14 sites throughout Japan)
20. Swim for Freedom (12.8 km in Wisconsin, U.S.A.)
21. St. Vincent’s Foundation Swim Across the Sound (26 km in Connecticut, U.S.A.)
22. La Jolla Cove Swim Club 10-mile Relay (10 miles in California, U.S.A.)
23. Queenford Relays (4×1 km in England)
24. Lake Travis Relay (12 miles in Texas, U.S.A.)
25. Fiji Ocean Swim Festival Relay (10 km in Fiji)
26. Clean Half Marathon Swimming Open Water Relay (14.5 km in Hong Kong)
27. Fiji Swims Relay (18 km in Fiji)
28. Sognefjord Relay Races
29. Farallon Islands Relay (30 miles in California, U.S.A.)
30. World Winter Swimming Championships (4x25m breaststroke relay)
31. Trans Tahoe Relay (10 miles from Nevada to California, U.S.A.)
32. Bonaire EcoSwim Relay (2 km in Bonaire, Netherland Antilles)
33. Jersey France Relay (18 miles from Jersey to France)
34. Santa Barbara Channel Relays (12-52 miles in California, U.S.A.)
35. Steelman Open Water Swim Relay (3 miles in Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)
36. Catalina Island Circumnavigation Relay (48 miles in California, U.S.A.)
37. Xiamen-Kinman Swimming (8 km from Taiwan to China)
38. Kitsilano Challenge (6 km in Canada)
39. Loch Ore Meadows Scottish Championships (2 km in Scotland)
40. 4 Loops 4 Fun 6K Open Water Swim Relay (6 km in Colorado, U.S.A.)
41. Espiritu Santo Aore Swim (2.8 km in Vanuatu)
42. Revéza 10 (13 km in Brazil)
43. Travesssia de Itapema 5000 (5 km in Brazil)
44. Tumon Bay Ocean Swim (2.4 km in Guam)
45. Pennock Island Challenge (13.2 km in Alaska, U.S.A.)
46. Marathon de la Releve (16 km in Canada)
47. Belgium Open Water National Championships (10 km in Belgium)
48. Ploegen Tijdrace (500m team pursuit in Netherlands)
49. Distance Swim Challenge (12.6 miles in California, U.S.A.)
50. Sitka Sound Adventure Swim (10 km in Alaska, U.S.A.)

Photo shows the members of the fastest four-way English Channel relaySport City Mexico.
Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source


 

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