Sian Clement - Bristol Channel

40.7 km (25.3 miles)

14 hours, 1 minute on July 23, 2016

Observed and documented by Rebecca Owen


  • Name: Sian Clement
  • Age on swim date: 38
  • Nationality: Great Britain
  • Resides: Aberavon, Wales

Support Personnel

  • Escort Boat: Big Blue (River Afan)
  • Pilot: Andrew Edwards
  • Observer: Rebecca Owen
  • Paddlers / Crew: Stephen Holmes, Matt Rossi, Carl Hogan

Swim Parameters

Route Definition

Crossing of Bristol Channel from Ilfracombe to Swansea.

Historical Claims

First female and fastest crossing of Bristol Channel from Ilfracombe.

In 2009, Gethin Jones swam from Ilfracombe to Caswell Bay, Swansea in 21 hours, 39 minutes.

Swim Data

  • Start: July 23, 2016, 01:37.
  • Finish: July 23, 2016, 15:38.
  • Elapsed: 14 hours, 1 minute

Summary of Conditions

  • Sea Temp: 18-19C.
  • Air Temp: 16-20C.
  • Wind Speed: 5-10 knots.

GPS Track

30-minute trackpoint interval. Download raw data (CSV).

Observer Log

Download PDF (2.8 MB)


Ilfracombe to Swansea Swim Challenge

For those of you who don’t know me I am a GP in Fforestfach Medical Centre in Swansea, I am also a GP Appraiser. I decided at the end of last year that now was the time to actually achieve a dream that I have been contemplating for the last 7 years, that is to become the first female (and second person) to swim the Bristol Channel from Ilfracombe. Many others have swum the Bristol Channel but at a point where it is much narrower than where I did. The basic rule is that throughout the swim you cannot touch anybody or anything (with the exception of a feeding pole used to provide food). I completed it successfully in a time of 14 hours and 1 minute.

I learnt a lot from the swim, most of which can be translated into my work life.

Firstly, the preparation in terms of the logistics was an emotional rollercoaster which I was not prepared for, the training itself was much easier than the planning. When on such a rollercoaster small setbacks can be enough to make you want to quit, it is important during those times to have supportive friends and family who can keep you positive and provide a more balanced view.

Secondly, your body is an amazing thing and can cope with huge stress, especially if you have trained it, but your mind is more powerful and is what will determine whether you are successful or not. Approximately 4 hours into my swim I was vomiting more or less continuously and swimming through shoals of jellyfish who were stinging me everywhere, I was also struggling to spot my support team due to low light conditions. I really did not think that I could complete the swim. I was in a bad place mentally. Then one of my supporters said something very positive to me during a feed stop and my thinking changed completely all of a sudden I felt good and my swimming felt stronger. It’s taught me how important being strong mentally is and I realise that especially for our patients with chronic diseases their emotional wellbeing and mental strength is probably more important for their experience of their illness than their physical state, yet it is their physical state that we focus on.

I did the swim not only to challenge myself but also to raise money for 2 charities (with links to my just giving pages):

Any donations are much appreciated.

I could not have done this swim without the support of my family, friends and support team, I am so grateful for everything they have done to help and can’t thank them enough.

Click to enlarge.

Appendix: Geth Jones report

Hi guys…. I wanted to share with you a swim I did back in September…. On September 13th 2009 I swam from Ilfracombe to Caswell Bay (Swansea), in 21:39hrs. (and 34seconds!), a distance of 23 nautical miles (in a straight line), across the Bristol Channel, which is reputed to have the second largest tidal variation in the world. A world first. The motivation came for this came from living in Swansea and whilst training for English Channel and people asking me what I was training for next and me answering simply the channel. People would laugh and ask, the Bristol Channel??! at which point I would be obliged to point out that the distance from Swansea across the Bristol channel was further and also due to the stronger tides, just as tough a swim! The planning of the swim has been interesting, from the comments that it couldn’t be done, to the cheeky ones about where I would end up…Gloucester!! was once mentioned! One of my first discussions was with a local “yacht master”, who gave me some information on the route/tidal planning of the swim. I settled on a small company (Swansea Watersports), for my pilot boat. My criteria for a specific pilot boat, was for something a bit more stable than the boat used in the English Channel. While swimming the English Channel, I was more concerned about my mate on board, than myself due to the rocking of the thing!!! So I decided to go with a RIB as my support boat. As to the officiating of the swim, it was recommended I ask the BLDSA; however while waiting for a reply from my e mail (still waiting!), I spoke to someone in the welsh sports council, who directed me towards the Welsh Swimming Association, who supplied me with an open water referee (Welsh+ GB), who came on board and witnessed my efforts. I started my swim at 6:45 on the Saturday eve……and much as it pains me to say it….it was completely flat! a gift, absolutely perfect conditions, I have witnessed worse conditions in a lake!!! So your questions, why did it take me so long??! this year has been the worst year in my years of training for endurance events… for most of my key training sessions I would feel like an injury was knocking on my door(and it wasn’t mental..honest!) At around the 10-12 hr my shoulder gave in, it was extremely painfully to rotate-So I took some ibuprofen and tried doing finger drag which slightly changed my stroke enough to keep moving….quite a few different strokes followed in the next few hours including one armed plus doggy paddling! My target for landing was the tower within Swansea bay, however the tides had different ideas; the landing site was changed to Bracelet Bay where, fuelled by local media a crowd was waiting…then Lang land Bay, but I actually came into Caswell bay. After being told that the best site would have been a rock face, I made the decision to swim a little bit further into my training bay, Caswell!