From England to France – Swimming the Channel
After approximately two years of training and regimented swimming schedules, two United States Airmen attempted to swim the English Channel from Dover, England, to the western coastline of France, Sept. 27.
U.S. Air Force Major Casey Bowen, a dermatologist with the 59th Medical Wing, swims in Dover Harbor, United Kingdom during a practice swim on September 25, 2016. Maj. Bowen and Maj. Ritchie traveled to the United Kingdom to swim across the English Channel from Dover Harbor to the coastline of France. (DoD News photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball)
1 photo: United States European Command Image
Photo 1 of 1: U.S. Air Force Major Casey Bowen, a dermatologist with the 59th Medical Wing, swims in Dover Harbor, United Kingdom during a practice swim on September 25, 2016. Maj. Bowen and Maj. Ritchie traveled to the United Kingdom to swim across the English Channel from Dover Harbor to the coastline of France. (DoD News photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball) Download full-resolution version

DOVER, England – After approximately two years of training and regimented swimming schedules, two United States Airmen attempted to swim the English Channel from Dover, England, to the western coastline of France, Sept. 27.

U.S. Air Force Majors Simon Ritchie and Casey Bowen, both dermatologists stationed at the 59th Medical Wing from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, viewed this challenging swim as the culminating point for swimmers across the globe.

“This is the pinnacle event in swimming,” said Bowen. “It’s been a long term goal and just a personal challenge that I have been thinking of for a long time. We scheduled a crossing years ago.”

Bowen and Ritchie felt confident in their abilities and dedication to accomplish the task, but also cognizant of the challenges they faced. The duo tackled Mother Nature’s unpredictability with wind, rain, tidal changes and cold temperatures as well as a potential encounter with jellyfish. Aside from the forces of nature, the Airmen coped with physical exhaustion and mental fatigue as they fought through the sea. 

“I try to lose myself in the moment; you really just have to stay in your own moment,” said Ritchie. “Look at your support boat and put your head back down in the water and keep going.”

When they arrived in Dover, the Airmen had the opportunity to speak with several other swimmers from around the world who have completed the solo and relay swims across the channel.

After waiting for a few days for the right conditions for the swim, Bowen leaped off the support boat into the frigid salt water of the English Channel and swam to Dover shoreline and started his official swim on Sept. 26. Ritchie had to wait a few more days to start his swim on Oct. 3. 

Both Airmen successfully landed on the shoreline of France and finished their swim. Bowen hit a time of 12 hours and nine minutes while Ritchie finished with 11 hours and 24 minutes. 

“One of my old coaches from the Air Force Academy had emailed me and told me that it was about the endeavor and not about finishing, try to enjoy it,” said Bowen. “So I did.”

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