Wallingford woman completes English Channel crossing
By Brent Curtis
staff writer | September 02,2014
The lights of the French coast were tantalizingly close when Bethany Bosch realized the strong current in the English Channel was pulling her inexorably away from the finish line.
“I could see the light tower and was aiming for it but when I saw it go from being on my right to being on my left I knew I was being pushed out to sea,” the Wallingford woman said the evening after she completed her 17-hour, 39-minute swim across the English Channel.
The moment in which she realized that the shoreline was receding represented the toughest moment of her crossing.
At that point, Bosch had been in the bone-chilling waters of the North Atlantic for 14 hours. It was also 2:30 a.m. and, while she still felt strong, Bosch said she knew that the errant current had just added hours onto the end of her odyssey.
Those thoughts, along with the knowledge that warmth and respite were on a boat close by with members of her support team passed through her head in a span of moments and ended with a one-word answer.
“I thought to myself, ‘Whatever,’ and kept going,” she said. “I told my crew ‘I don’t want to know where I am’ because I knew I could be three miles away from shore for a long time and that can cause a lot of mental stress. At that point I really still felt fresh and strong, so I just blocked it out and kept going.”
Her determination and grit paid off more than two hours later, when she waded on shore at 4:30 a.m. and became the latest swimmer to join a list of less than 1,500 people who have made successful crossings of the English Channel since the deed was first done in 1875.
“I stood up out of the water and thought to myself ‘This is it. This is France,’” she said during a phone interview from Folkestone, England, where she and her team met for dinner Monday night.
Standing up, she waved to her team before setting out on her next challenge — a search for rocks on a sandy beach.
“It’s a tradition when you cross the channel. It’s called ‘pebbles down your pants’ so I’m running around the beach trying to find rocks but it’s a sandy beach so it took awhile,” she said.
The moments before she clambered on to her boat, where she was wrapped in blankets and quickly succumbed to exhausted sleep, also gave the 29-year-old a chance to reflect on a journey that began years before and far away from where it ended.
While she first dreamed of swimming the channel as a child, Bosch only began training as a marathon swimmer three years ago.
She completed her first eight-mile swim in 2010 and has steadily built from there. Before attempting the 22.5-mile swim across the Channel, Bosch trained by swimming long distances including Lake Memphremagog — a 25-mile swim.
As it turned out, Bosch swam much more than 22.5 miles to reach the French shore. Her exact distance hadn’t been calculated by Monday afternoon, but her crew estimated that the strong current added another six to seven miles to the distance she swam.
“I just stood there and took a moment before I got on the boat. I’m so thankful for the journey of the last three years and I thank God for the person I’ve become,” she said. “It was such a special moment to know you made it.”
Her success could well have an impact far beyond just her own life.
Bosch and Intrepid Athletics, a local nonprofit group dedicated to athletic events, are hoping to use her accomplishment as a means to raise money for a new aquatic center in Rutland.
Natalie Boyle, president of Intrepid Athletics, said her group and Bosch are striving to one day build a swimming facility in the city within an existing dilapidated building,”
“We want to take a space that’s dilapidated and like a scourge now and turn it into something positive. We want it to be a place for kids to go so they don’t get into other things,” said Boyle, who was a member of Bosch’s four-person support team during the crossing.
“In a very real sense, the (Channel) crossing isn’t an end or a beginning to the work we’re doing. It’s a catalyst for what comes next,” Boyle added.