Harlesden woman celebrating 50th anniversary of English Channel swim

Sprightly 71-year-old still goes for a dip in Hyde Park

Train hard, get lots of practice and don’t give up: that is the advice of a pensioner celebrating 50 years since swimming the English Channel.

Early one morning in 1960, Rosemary George left the Shakespeare Beach in Dover, heading east.

But 21 hours later and just 400 metres short of the finish line, she was forced to retire, exhausted, frozen and bitterly disappointed after drifting nine miles of course.

Ms George, 71, of All Souls Avenue, Harlesden, said: “Having to get into that boat so close to the finish line was the worst experience of my life.

“We had no choice. It was dark and we were miles off course and it was all starting to get scary. I was so disappointed.”

Less than a year later on the morning of July 19, she tried again, this time clocking in a respectable 20hrs 50mins and became the 26th woman to cross the 21-mile “Strait of Dover”.

Most Read

She said: “It was me versus the Channel that day and there was only going to be one winner.

‘‘It felt like I was re-born that day because from that moment it all changed for me.

“It opened up a door to a career as a swimmer where I met the most wonderful people and travelled all over the world.”

She went on to a career in distance swimming, participating in races across the globe, including international events in Italy and Egypt.

After retiring from competitive action she enjoyed a long career as a coach, specialising in teaching swimmers to cross the Channel.

She still competes in distance swims at the Serpentine in Hyde Park, but won’t be making a record-breaking bid to become the oldest “swimmer in town” by taking on the Channel again.

She said: “I think that is just a little bit beyond me now.

“But one thing is for sure, I won’t ever stop swimming.

“It is the only thing that I love to do today as much as I did when I was very young.”