Grove set for Channel challenge

Former Warriors and Scotland centre Alex Grove’s attempt to swim the English Channel will go ahead on Saturday August 1 despite the disruption and uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus lockdown.

Grove had embarked on a punishing training schedule – including swimming 1,134 lengths of the pool at the David Lloyd centre at Sixways – before the lockdown began in March.

Social distancing regulations meant that Grove was unable to train indoors or outdoors for ten weeks but travel restrictions were lifted in time to allow him to resume with twice weekly open water swims around Dover and south Devon.

The Channel Swimming Association only allowed cross-Channel attempts to resume earlier this month and strict social distancing measures will be in force when Grove attempts the 21-mile crossing from Dover to Cap Gris Nez on Saturday to raise funds for Acorns Children’s Hospice.

“I’m very much looking forward to Saturday after what has been a long – nearly two years – build up,” Grove said.

“I didn’t manage to swim at all for ten weeks from when lockdown was announced so the preparation was certainly more of a challenge.

“All the pools were closed and travel restrictions were in place which meant I couldn’t get to the sea. But, as restrictions eased I started to make regular trips to Dover and south Devon.

“We very nearly postponed the swim but restrictions eased just in time. The CSA only started to allow swims from about two-and-a-half weeks ago. Prior to that no one had attempted the Channel this year. So we’ve been lucky regards the timings.

“I’ve got a call with my pilot on Thursday evening and he’ll provide an update as to the weather and sea conditions for Saturday and whether we’ll be ok to go ahead, otherwise it’ll be knocked back a day. Even
after all the preparation, we’re still at the mercy of the weather.

“The COVID-19 restrictions have meant that pilot boats are limited to six people which will be the captain, co-captain, an observer from the CSA who makes sure we adhere to rules and regs, my swim coach and my brother, Oli, plus me on the way back.

“I was meant to have Heath Stevens, the former Warriors and Coventry centre, and my father-in-law on the boat but numbers won’t permit. They’ll probably be glad to avoid the sea sickness.”

Grove hopes to raise £20,000 for Acorns and fund-raising has so far reached almost £19,000.

You can support Alex Grove’s Channel swim here