Mind Over Matter Does Matter [40-year Anniversary of Kevin Murphy's first English Channel 3-way Attempt]

Mind Over Matter Does Matter [40-year Anniversary of Kevin Murphy’s first English Channel 3-way Attempt]

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Open water swimmers are often heard saying, “Open water swimming is 80% mental.”

Today, on the 40th anniversary of the first attempt at a three-way crossing of the English Channel, Kevin Murphy literally helped expand the mindset of the swimming community with his valiant but unsuccessful attempt.

Murphy, who often said that he is ‘going for a little dip‘, but he had a whole lot more on his mind back on September 1st 1975.

With Captain Charnick at the helm of St. Claire with P. Cox and F. Seagrove as observers and Jane Secker, Leslie Murphy, Stan Birtley and Peter Dyton on his crew, Murphy set off to France at 5:23 am on the first three-way attempt of the English Channel in history. His first leg in 15 hours flat, faster than his previous 3 crossings (2 of which were solo crossings).

But things started to get rocky on his return to England. His second leg took him 21 hours 3 minutes. But things were not quite over despite having spent over 36 hours in the way. He looked across in the direction of France and took off, convinced a three-way was only a matter of time.

But it was not meant to be.

Murphy was pulled – involuntarily – after 52 hours 30 minutes. The conditions were just too rough for the safety of the crew. Murphy, of course, was willing to continue, but other factors out of his control led to his three-way attempt being called.

[Marathon swimming] is a team effort,” the famed reporter/channel swimmer explains. “When I am actually swimming, I hate it while I am in there. When I get in, I am thinking when am I going to get out. I enjoy finishing and actually the adrenalin rush of actually completing a swim and overcoming all of the odds including one’s own frailties.

I have a fear of what I am going to doing to myself.”


But on this day 40 years ago, his mindset was right. His course was clear. His goal was France, to complete history’s first three-way crossing of the English Channel.

Mother Nature, however, stepped in and made sure history would be made by another swimmer, Jon Erikson who later completed his three-way in 1981. “52.5 hours [swimming over] two and a half ways before I was ordered out because of bad weather.”

Murphy thought it could be done and proved to others like Erikson, Alison Streeter, Philip Rush and Chloë McCardel that it could be done…eventually.

Nobody believed before then that [a three-way] could be done. It’s great to see the legacy with Chloë being the latest to achieve the three-way.

Now it just needs somebody to believe that a four-way can be done
.”



Eventually, someone will step up and attempt that little dip. Famous little dips throughout the history of swimming across the English Channel:

* First solo crossing (England-to-France): Matthew Webb, 21 hours 34 minutes in 1875

* First solo crossing (France-to-England: Enrico Tiroboschi, 16 hours 33 minutes in 1923

* First female solo crossing (France-to-England): Gertrude Ederle, 14 hours 39 minutes in 1926

* First female solo crossing (England-to-France): Florence Chadwick, 16 hours 19 minutes in 1951

* First two-way crossing (England-to-France-to-England): Antonio Abertondo, 43 hours 10 minutes in 1961

* First female two-way crossing (England-to-France-to-England): Cynthia Nicholas in 19 hours 55 minutes in 1977

* First three-way crossing (England-to-France-to-England-to-France): Jon Erikson, 38 hours 27 minutes

* First female three-way crossing (England-to-France-to-England-to-France): Alison Streeter, 34 hours 40 minutes

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association