Darien High junior swims the English Channel

For Darien High School junior Davis Tuzinkiewicz who recently completed the English Channel swim with a relay team, the feat is more about the passion for swimming than bragging about it.

Davis spoke about what this swim meant to him. “I hoped to get out of this experience a sense that I accomplished something great and unique along with my team. After training for two summers, it is a great payoff to finally reach France. I also learned that the open water distance swimming community is small, but it is very special. The people who swim are all very passionate about swimming not to boast, but just to enjoy the sport.”

On Sept. 1, Tuzinkiewicz and a team swam across the channel from 3 a.m. to 2:48 p.m., a total of 11 hours and 48 minutes.

The swim across the English Channel, from Dover, England, to Cap Gris-Nez, France, is 21 miles. However, because of very strong currents swimmers can swim up to 30 miles to reach their destination. The English Channel is the busiest shipping lane in the world and as many as 600 ships pass through daily as well as 200 daily ferry trips between Calais and Dover.

On his swim, Tuzinkiewicz said, “The physical swim was made difficult mostly mentally. It is a long hour to swim in the cold 64-degree water especially in my first leg of the two, because it was at 5 a.m. in pitch black.”

The cold was a big challenge, he said.

“After the first 30 minutes, the cold is deep in your body and your muscles start to slow down and tighten up. It is a bit scary to be in such a great ocean among huge container ships while swimming. In the dark, I felt very isolated and could only focus on swimming because that is all I could see, besides the boat by my side,” he said.

The team relay trained for a year and it included many long distance swims as well as a few cold water swims as the channel is cold and no wetsuits are allowed. Each person in the relay swims an hour at a time and are not allowed to touch the boat, nor is the swim order allowed to be changed. The waters are rough, cold and the current demands that the swimmers swim at full speed in order to keep ahead of the current. One of the members of the team, and also their coach, is Chloe McCardel.  She is currently the world champion open water swimmer and has 26 solo swims of the channel under her belt.

But Tuzinkiewicz was prepared, having swam since he was in elementary school and later began swimming on the Darien High School swim team in his freshman year.

On his swimming history, Davis said, “I have a lake house in New Jersey I go to in the summer. We have family friends, the Reeves, [who] are very adventurous. Rip Reeves, the father, has swum in two previous relays of the channel so he knew people involved. He and two of his daughters, Emily and Taylor, were on the team.”

He continued, “The fifth relay member was Chloe McCardel, who has swam the channel 27 times solo. Rip Reeves found out I swam on the high school team and I started to swim in the lake with him for fun. He planned the swim before he knew I swam and asked me to join the team. Since then we trained all last summer and this summer to swim the channel.”

For more information, check out the official Channel Swimming Association website: channelswimmingassociation.com.