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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Abu Dhabi author to swim the English Channel this summer 

Just 2,228 swimmers have completed the feat, compared to 4,833 people who have successfully scaled Mount Everest

A motivational speaker and author Julie Lewis will swim the English Channel this August to raise awareness about resilience and the importance of creating memories. Victor Besa / The National Section: National
A motivational speaker and author Julie Lewis will swim the English Channel this August to raise awareness about resilience and the importance of creating memories. Victor Besa / The National Section: National

A motivational speaker and author will attempt to swim the English Channel this summer – a feat which has been achieved by less than half the number of people who have successfully scaled Mount Everest.

Just 2,228 people have completed the 33-kilometre swim, which takes on average 12 to 14 hours, compared to 4,833 climbers who have reached Everest’s peak.

Julie Lewis, a 56-year-old Briton living in Abu Dhabi, originally applied to take part in a relay swim with four other UAE residents, but for one reason or another they all dropped out.

Having already paid her deposit, she was faced with a choice: to convert her application to a solo swim, or abandon the attempt altogether.

She visited Dover in March – at that time the longest swim she had completed was just one hour – and asked Loretta Cox, a swimming coach who has herself crossed the channel six times, for advice.

“I said 'Look, this is the situation – I have five months. If I do what you tell me to do you think I can do this?' And so we went to the local swimming pool in Dover and she said, OK, just swim until I tell you to stop'. So I swam and swam,” she said.

Julie trains at Al Muneera beach in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National
Julie trains at Al Muneera beach in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National

“She said 'Julie, if you do as I tell you, and you train hard, eat well and sleep well, and do your acclimatisation, you have got it about you to do it'.”

The Channel Swimming Association, the governing body which observes and authenticates all English Channel swims, approved her application for a solo swim – pointing out that it would mean a significant change financially, mentally, and physically.

Being part of a team she would have been in the water for just one hour at a time – but as a solo entry, she is now facing at least a 12-hour swim to cross the, stretch of water which some estimates suggest five out of people six people fail to complete.

“Once you are in the water no one can touch you and you can’t get on and off the boat – the crew throw bottles out on a line at you with liquid nutrition in or a net with food like peaches and soft mushy food,” said Lewis, who wrote the book Moving Mountains: Discover the Mountain in You.

People mainly fail because they either have not trained enough – or do not eat well enough while they are preparing, she said.

Lewis will fly to the UK on June 5 to acclimatise ahead of her swim window in August. One of the first things she will do is a six-hour qualifier swim in cold water of less than 16C to prove she is capable of crossing the Channel.

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She is making the swim to collect material for her next book – H20 Leadership: Lessons from Water.

“It’s really about how water is extremely resilient, because it moves around obstacles,” she said.

“So if we can be like water, in terms of going with the flow and finding a way through challenges then it is kind of an interesting take on self-leadership.”

She will be accompanied by a boat, which will sail alongside her, carrying her coach, who will show pictures of her friends and family, giving her motivation to keep pushing through.

Her window is August 18 to 25 – which is especially auspicious since the most successful day of the year statistically speaking is the 22nd.

“I actually looked through a trail of emails because this started last summer and one of these emails said your first potential date could be August 22,” she said.

“And I thought – that’s amazing.”