This alumnus took a sabbatical to swim the English Channel

If the weather gods are well-inclined, former EUR doctoral candidate and ex-EM employee…

It’s the day after and Ignacio Vaccaro is feeling fine – as good as new, in fact. “Apart from a bit of a painful shoulder, the general feeling is one of satisfaction.” When I call him, he is taking a short stroll along the cliffs of Dover. He is looking out over the stretch of water that less than a day ago he carved a way through from Dover to the French coast.

Force five wind

At 3.30 am on Sunday morning, the time had come: Vaccaro could set out on his swim across the English Channel. Escorted by the Louise Jane, skippered by Andy King and with coach Marcel van der Toght and friend Graham King also on board, the first hours were swum in relative darkness.

Twelve hours and twenty-five seconds later, Vaccaro would set foot on French soil. The crossing took longer than had been hoped because during the final kilometres the wind turned and picked up to force five. This made it particularly worrying, because with the wind blowing at right angles to the tide, the current can easily make it impossible for you to reach the coast.


Ignacio Vaccaro arrives on a French beach after 12 hours and 25 seconds.

“The first thing I did was pick up a pebble. That is sort of a tradition. The pebble is for my son. I didn’t stay in France for more than about five minutes, because I got back into the boat and we set off back to Dover at once,” explained Vaccaro. “At last I could tuck into a peanut butter sandwich, which was a welcome change after twelve hours of liquid food and the occasional banana, although, to be honest, I wasn’t really hungry.”

Once back in Dover, his temporary digs had been decorated and the Dutch flag flew proudly on high. “Obviously, I called my wife immediately, then I took a shower, had a meal with my coach and called my parents.” Vaccaro, who more or less grew up in a swimming pool – among other things, his dad was a high-ranking swimming official – tells us how his parents shared his experience. “When I dived into the water, it was my brother’s birthday, so they all crowded together in front of the computer in Buenos Aires. When I finished, they were at a wedding, so everyone watched there too.”

Shed a tear or two

He’ll be driving back home on Tuesday. He expects to shed a tear or two when he gets there and he’s not expecting to do any more swimming for the rest of the week. “But hopefully, I’ll start again next week. An hour or so in the pool about three times a week and the occasional hour in open water.”

He has to go back to Dover In October when he will be presented with an official certificate at the local town hall.