Ross Edgley, 33, of Grantham, Lincolnshire has become the first person to swim around mainland Great Britain, pushing the boundaries of what the human body is capable of.
The 1,792 mile ‘Great British Swim’ took the adventure-athlete 157 days to complete, with Ross circumnavigating the coastlines of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.
Today, Ross took his first steps back on dry land since June 1 as he walked out of the sea and onto the beach at Margate, back to the very same spot he started his epic journey five months earlier.
To mark the occasion – and by way of acknowledging the support he had received from the British public throughout his adventure – Ross was joined in the sea for the final stretch of his epic voyage by 400 swimmers from the Outdoor Swimming Society.
Margate beach was packed with hundreds of members of the public and Ross’s family and friends. British adventurers and friends Ant Middleton and Ed Stafford were among those on the beach to congratulate Ross on his gargantuan achievement.
After emerging from the sea at 8.40am, Ross triumphantly held aloft a souvenir trident engraved with his name and 157 days, created for him by Red Bull.
Red Bull Media House has documented the record-breaking highs and excruciating lows of Ross’s Great British Swim in weekly vlogs posted on the Red Bull YouTube channel. The series has accumulated more than 3.5 million total views during Ross’s five month odyssey and the final episode will go live at 3pm November 8, 2018.
Speaking of its completion, Ross said:
“Setting out, I knew the Great British Swim would be the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted. I can’t really believe we’ve done it. I was very naïve at the start of the whole thing, and there were moments where I really did begin to question myself. My feelings now are pride, tiredness and relief.
“It’s been a team effort and it’s thanks to the whole crew, the support I’ve received from the public and Red Bull that I’ve been able to complete it. To see so many smiling faces here today is amazing, and if I can take one thing away from this whole experience, it’s that I’ve inspired people to go out there and challenge themselves, no matter how small that inspiration may be.”
Ant Middleton added:
“Ross Edgley is a true British hero and his feat of swimming around Great Britain will likely never be repeated. The mental and physical strength required to swim day and night for five months, to cover close to 1,800 miles is just super human. It is astonishing and I could not be prouder to salute his achievement. Ross is one of the most humble, yet insipiring people you will ever meet, and he certainly deserves to have his name recorded in the history books.”
Five months at sea
In order to complete his mammoth challenge Ross completed up to 40,000 strokes per day, swimming in six hour stints, day and night, whilst taking the six hours in between to rest and recover aboard the sailing vessel Hecate.
Veteran sea captain Matt Knight skippered the boat, plotting the safest and most efficient route in order to maximise Ross’s chances of completion.
Matt Knight said:
“I’m tremendously proud of Ross for completing the Great British Swim. When he first approached me and said he wanted to swim around Britain, I think I was one of the only people who took him seriously. I knew the challenge was possible, but it would take a very special person to complete it. Someone able to endure everything mother nature could conjur up.
“Britain is beautiful. Especially when you have the pleasure to look upon the coast from the sea. My memories of the Great British Swim will last forever. My family have been part of the crew with my wife, two daughters and my son on the boat throughout the challenge. It has brought us closer together and Ross has become a lifelong friend to us.”
Fuelling the Great British Swim
To sustain his herculean effort, Ross ate between 10,000 and 15,000 calories each day. He drank Red Bull before each swim – with the sugar and caffeine playing an integral role in his preparation –consuming a total of 314 cans across the challenge.
On a daily basis Ross would consume calorie-rich, high-carbohydrate food including porridge oats, rice pudding, noodles, pizza and pasta as well as coconut oil and nut butters for fats and super green shakes and multivitamins for micronutrients. That’s not forgetting the unsung hero of the Great British Swim – the humble banana – of which Ross ate an incredible 610.
As the temperature dropped following the summer months, Ross adapted his diet to pack on fat and insulate himself from the water.
Speaking of fuelling the Great British Swim, Ross added:
“During the day swims, my body’s biological clock knows it needs to be awake. However at night my body is naturally more tired, so before night swims I’ll drink one or maybe one and a half cans of Red Bull, usually with some porridge oats.
“One reason is that caffeine has been shown to improve the ionic environment within working muscles. What I mean by that is that it spares muscle glycogen, so I’ve been having Red Bull with porridge oats because the porridge provides glycogen, which is stored for later in the day, and the Red Bull mobilises your body to use its own body fat for fuel.
“The second reason is that caffeine has been shown to work favourably with neurotransmitters – the chemical signals in your brain – which can limit your perceived fatigue.”
Ross spent a staggering 23 weeks at sea in total. Incredibly, throughout this time, he did not take a day off through sickness or injury, with the only stoppages on his journey enforced by the extreme winds and waves caused by Storm Callum and Storm Ali.
Along the course of his journey, Ross suffered a disintegrating tongue caused by exposure to seawater, extreme wetsuit chaffing – which resulted in scarring on his neck and Ross becoming affectionately known as “Rhino Neck” – and even a suspected torn shoulder, suffered on the North East coast of England. Despite all this, nothing would stop Ross’s perseverance.
Ross the record breaker
In addition to being first person in history to swim around mainland Great Britain, Ross broke several other records on the way:
- On June 30, he became the first person to swim the length of the English channel from Dover to Cornwall, completing the 330 mile distance in 32 days
- On August 14, he surpassed the previous world record for the Longest Staged Sea Swim* of 73 days, set by Benoît Lecomte who swam across the Atlantic Ocean in 1998
- On August 30, he became the first ever Briton to swim from Lands’ End to John O’Groats (900 miles) in just 62 days – halving the previous record set by Zimbabwean Sean Conway, who completed the swim in 135 days in 2013
Marine wildlife spotting
It hasn’t just been the public who have followed the Great British Swim. During its course, Ross swam with a pod of twelve dolphins off the Devon coast, played hide and seek with a grey seal in Cornwall, met with a Minke Whale in the Bristol Channel and even came face to face with a seven-metre basking shark off the coast of north Scotland. Elsewhere he encountered puffins, eagles and sea otters. Ross also elected to grow a beard to protect himself from the relentless stings of countless jellyfish.
From Iona, the wild swimming enthusiast in Scotland, who swam out to meet Ross with a freshly baked cake on her head, to fans who visited the boat overnight in Devon to leave out fudge for the crew – Ross has received huge support from the British public throughout the swim. He credits the encouragement he has received on social media for helping him to keep going.
Following his record-breaking swim, Ross has been invited to be a speaker at this year’s World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) Open Water Summit, which takes place in November at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Through weekly vlogs and live broadcasts, the past five months at sea have all been documented via the Red Bull YouTube channel, covering everything from pushing the limits of what is physically possible, to nutrition, record breaking, marine wildlife spotting and public support, as Ross made history along his Great British Swim journey.
To watch the final episode of The Great British Swim, visit: https://www.youtube.com/redbull
Thanks to Red Bull Media House for all content