Arquivo das águas abertas (Open water swim files)

Nossa contribuição para preservar a história da Maratona Aquática  

( Our contribution to  preserve Marathon´s Swimming history) 

Nota: Todos os textos aparecem primeiro em português e na sequência em inglês. FOTOS no final da página.

(Note: All texts appears first in portuguese and  following in english. PICTURES in the end of the page).

Este espaço é dedicado para divulgar fotos históricas de importantes provas de Maratona Aquática na década de 50 e 60 em todo o mundo. Estas fotos fazem parte do acervo de livros e jornais que Abilio Couto colecionava e ficaram quase 60 anos guardados.

Algumas fotos são consideradas raridades. Galeria de fotos no final da página


This area is dedicated to promote old-historic swim pictures of the 50´s and the 60´s around the world. This pictures belongs to          Couto´s personal files of books and newspapers cuts and was saved from the last 60 years. Some pictures are considered rare. Pictures gallery at the end of the page.



A primeira travessia do Canal por Matthew Webb em 1875

(First Channel swim by Matthew Webb in 1875)

This item is available only in English, RARE extracted from the 1956 book "It´s Cold in the Channel wrote by Sam Rockett.


Undoubtedly, Channel swimming began a long time ago. 

But was Captain Webb in 1875 the first man to get across?

Was Henry Sullivan in 1923 the first American to suceed? Was an Italian in the same year the first person to swim from the French coast to England? Let us consider the facts- and please believe that I am not writing for effect or with any desire to stir the muddy waters of controversy, bout only to assess the evidence as impartially as I can.

In the dead of winter on 20th December, 1862, an English merchant seaman named William Hoskins floated from Dover to Calais in a bundle of straw. We need not regard that fact too seriosly, but his feat was remembered and set people thinking.Still, it was ten years later before any know person summoned enough courage and ambition to try to swim across the Straits. On an August day, another Englishman, J.B. Johnson, made the attempt but was beaten by rough seas after one hour and three minutes. The first man on record to swam from the admiralty Pier at Dover to the sand of Calais in 21 hrs 45 min. He dived from the Dover pier at 12.56 p.m. on 24 th August, 1875, and landed on French soil at 10.41 a.m. the following day. Even so, it was his second attempt on the Channel. Twelve days earlier he had started at Dover but had given up after fighting stormy seas for nearly seven hours.

Channel swimmers today- and remember that more than four hundred assaults on the Channel have now been made- still refer to Webb´s feat in awed voices. He had disadvantages that have largely been overcome through our better knowledge of long-distance swimming. He knew little of the Straits currents, he did, however, dose himself generously with porpoise oil "to keep out the cold and maintain the tone of the body during the long immersion in water". Young Captain Webb was clearly something of a "Superman". He was accustomed to little sleep; "I record the fact", he wrote, "That since I was fourteen years of age I have never had more than four hours sleep, as a rule.". Physicians marvel that he was able to keep up his circulation and sustain his body heat; is ts said that actually emerged from the water as warm as when he went in, and only a Channel swimmer can fully appreciate that extraordinary phenomenon. He wore no goggles.The crawl stroke was unknow in 1875 and he relied largely on a side stroke and breast stroke. No long-distance swimmer would dream of using the side stroke today. He took no solid foods.

Today, most aspirants eat a little chicken, fruit, chocolate, and other solids early in the crossing. Webb drank English ale, brandy, beef tea, coffee and-of all things-cod liver oil, wich made him violently sick. He did not know the value of glucose as an energy provider. Moreover, of course, it was not then know that the Gris Nez to Dover route is far easier than the England to France passage.

Webb´s position was also against him. He started at the end of the ebb tide wich carried him slightly westwards, and he had to swim six and half hours on the flood tide to come east of Dover again.He aimed to get west of Gris Nez with the next ebb tide; we now know that if any swimmer is west of this point his chances are remote because of the out-sweeping currents. True, two swimmers have been known to defeat these currents, but socres of others have been beaten by them. In all, it is estimated, Webb travelled at least fifty miles. At first he was averaging twenty-six strokes to the minute. Accompanying him was a lugger and two rowing-boats containing fourteen people, including five journalists. Two observes were deputed to see that the exploit was genuine and there was even a diver to go to Webb´s assistance should it be necessary. After dark one of the referees was stationed continually in a rowing-boat while the other dinghy kept contact with the lugger.

Early in the afternoon a little rain fell and Webb took his first refereshment- a small cup of ale. The flood tide began at three o´clock and by four he was back abreast the point at wich he had started.A thick haze almost hid the Dover cliffs, but the sea had become perfectly smooth and warm. By six o´clock he was beginning to make real progress across the Channel, tough a large steamship passed uncomfortably close.

Soon, after sunset the South Foreland Light appeared and at half-past eight in the evening it was estimated that Webb was ten miles distantr from it. Half and hour later, he called out that he had been stung by a jellyfish and asked for brandy. His stroke was now noticeably weaker.A few minutes later, however, he shouted that he was all right. The tide, wich had been slack for some time, was now turning towards the south-west and Webb had reached mid-Channel. By eleven o´clock he was eight miles from Gris Nez and it seemed that he might complete his task in fourteen hours. But at two in the morning the flood tide again affected his course; moreover, the referee reported that Webb was geting weaker and the diver took his place in the rowing-boat ready for emergency. An hour later hopes faded.The water was becoming choppy, and the swimmer´s progress slower. At dawn there wasno more sign of land than if they had been in mid-ocean. At half-past five land was at last sighted throught the mist and Webb, greatly encouraged, struck out again with vigour. The tide, however, carried him to the North-east and for an hour or so he made little headway.

He had now been in the water for more than eighteen hours and was becoming exhausted. The breeze had increased and waves were beating his face. At eight in the morning he was seriosly distressed. As he grew weaker, the wind and tide became stronger. At 9.30 a.m. another rowing-boat came out and rowed on his weather side to give him some protection. Then the diver swam for a time alongside him before he was beaten by rough sea and had no return. Even when Webb was within 200 yards of the shore it seemed unlikely that he could reach it because of his weakness. Members of his party gave him soundings that were cheering him constantly and finally rowers pushed down ther long oars to show that they could easily touch the bottom.When at last he did reach land the men in the boats jumped into the water and hugged him with delight. Exhausted, he was wrapped up and given three or four glasses of port.

Afterwards he described his feelings in these words:"The moment when I touched the Calais sands, and felt the French soil beneath my feet, is one wich I shall never forget, were I to live for a hundred years. I was terribly exhausted at the time, and during the last two or three hours I began to  think that, after all, I should fail. On the following day, after I had a good´s night rest, I did not feel very much the worse for what I had undergone. I had a peculiar sensation in my limbs, somewhat similar to what wich is often felt the first day of the cricketr season; and it was a week before I could wear a shirt collar, owing to a raw red rim at the back of my necks, caused by being obliged to keep mu head back for so long a period; for, it must be remembered, I was in the water for very nearly twenty-two hours."

For many years after his sucess there was some doubt in the minds of people living in Kent whether his swim had actually been genuine. Even as recently as 1950, before the first Cross-Channel race, knowledgeable fishermen of Dover and Folkestone flatly refused to believe that the Straits could be swum in that way. The cloud of doubt was such that as late 1905 affidavits were still being sworn by members of the escort party. Indeed, when T.W.Burgess swam from England to France in 1911, the most relieved person in England was probably Captain Webb´s widow. Webb has died twenty-eight years earlier, while trying to swim the rapids at Niagara.


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