Portsmouth researchers help endurance swimmer to tackle the length of the English Channel

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth are helping Lewis Pugh in his attempt to swim the length of the English Channel to urge the government to better protect UK waters.

Researchers were able to assess Lewis’s thermal responses to swimming in 18°C, the temperature of the Channel at the moment.

Lewis will swim 350 miles from Land’s End in Cornwall, to Dover, in Kent, in just Speedo trunks, a cap and goggles, as part of the worldwide Action for Oceans campaign.

The campaign calls on governments to fully protect at least 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030.

Lewis set off on ‘The Long Swim’ ay 6am this morning (Thursday 12 July).

To help him prepare for this enormous challenge, Lewis visited the University’s Extreme Environment Laboratory, and used the swimming flume to assess his performance in the conditions he is likely to face in the Channel.

Professor Mike Tipton, Head of the Extreme Environment Laboratory and Director of Research for the Department of Sport and Exercise Science, said: “We have unique facilities including a swimming flume in which we were able to assess Lewis’s thermal responses to swimming in 18°C, the temperature of the Channel at the moment. We were also able to give him advice on recovery from each swim and nutrition in terms of calorie requirements. His speedy and full recovery from each swim will be critical to his success.”

On his route, Lewis, 48, will meet people to carry out beach cleans, organised by Surfers Against Sewage. He is also inviting people to join him for sections of the swim and be a “voice for clean and healthy seas”.

He said: “I’ve been swimming in the world’s oceans for 30 years. This is not a long time in ecological terms, and yet I’ve seen the oceans change before my eyes.

“I am swimming the length of the English Channel to call on the British government to urgently protect the waters that surround the UK.”

Lewis is calling for the introduction of marine protected areas (MPAs) where wildlife and habitats are protected from human activity.

The swim will be authenticated by The Channel Swimming Association. He will average five hours and 6 to 12 miles per day.

Commenting on the challenges that Lewis will face, Professor Tipton said: “Whilst we have shown that Lewis should be able to cope with the water temperature, he has plenty of other potential problems not least of which will be jelly fish, cumulative fatigue and exhaustion, injury and illness, sea sickness; this will be a psychological as well as physiological challenge.”

This is not the first big challenge Lewis has faced. He has previously swum across the North Pole, and in Antarctica’s Ross Sea (completing the world’s southernmost swim) as well as in the waters of South Georgia, in the south Atlantic.

You can follow his progress at http://lewispugh.com/the-long-swim/

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