Tom Chapman - Bristol Channel

Penarth to Clevedon

21.2 km (13.2 miles)

6 hours, 38 minutes on 2 July 2021

Observed and documented by Ros Edmonds



  • Name: Tom Chapman
  • Gender: male
  • Age on swim date: 39
  • Nationality: British
  • Resides: Porthcawl, Wales

Support Personnel

  • Colin Hughes - support crew
  • Ceri Davies - pilot


Ros Edmonds

Ros was a judge 1 at Swim Wales indoor meets in 2015/16 adjudicating level 1,2 and 3. She also did an open water official course and adjudicated at the Swim Wales open water Championships in 2017.

Ros is a prolific athlete and swimmer, having completed 6 Ironmans, many marathon swims, several ice events, completed two English Channel Relays, several events like the Humdinger 6 hour swim and infinity’s ‘hit the wall’ camp as well as the Guildford 24 miler. Her most notable solo swim is a two way Windemere (BLDSA ratified).

Escort Vessel

Name Type Port
Cobra 9m Rib Swansea

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Textile swimsuit (Oddballs brief), hat, goggles.

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: Bristol Channel
  • Route Type: one-way channel swim
  • Start Location: Penarth slipway (51.432383, -3.168298)
  • Finish Location: Clevedon Slipway (51.4423531, -2.8624186)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 21.2 km (13.2 miles) (map)


LongSwimsDB: Bristol Channel.

Swim Data

  • Start: 2 July 2021, 04:50 (British Summer Time, Europe/London, UTC1).
  • Finish: 2 July 2021, 11:28
  • Elapsed: 6 hours, 38 minutes, 53 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (C) 17.7 18.4
Air Temp (C) 14.7 25.0
Wind (mph) 0 4

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot

Nutrition: Feed on 250mls of maltodextrin and fructose with fruit squash, first feed on 1.5 hours, subsequent feeds after 45mins.

Observer Log

Download PDF

PILOT VESSEL: Cobra. Piloted by Ceri Davies of Swansea Watersports
OBSERVER: Ros Edmonds
FEEDS All feeds liquid: 250ml of CNP Maltodextrin powder mixed with fructose, water, and fruit squash, warmed for each feed.

We met the boat in Penarth Marina and motored out of Cardiff Bay around to the start point at Penarth. Tom exited the boat and swam to Penarth Lifeboat Slipway adjacent to Penarth Pier. He cleared the water. Then re-entered the water to commence the swim at 4:50am.

Both a stopwatch and a garmin watch on the boat were started to record both the time and the track of the swim.

As Tom commenced swimming the first observations were noted on the form attached. The weather was cloudy, and the sun was just beginning to rise. There was very little wind and the sea calm with a slight swell. The swimmer was settling into the swim.

The first feed was given after 90 minutes. The feed was 250ml of CNP and fructose mixed in water and fruit squash. This was warmed slightly. Al feeds remained the same throughout the swim. The feed interval was reduced to forty-five minute intervals from this point until the end of the swim.

Regular observations were made throughout the swim. At each feed there was dialogue with the swimmer to observe and gage his cognitive state. At all times he was happy and in good form. As the morning progressed the sun rose, the clouds gradually dispersed, and the air temperature gradually warmed up. Just before the second feed at 7:05am the tide started to turn and push the swimmer up the estuary towards Bristol. The sea became choppier as the wind changed slightly.

At the third feed the sea calmed and for two and a half hours the wind completely dropped, and the sea was flat. The air temperature got much warmer, and the swimmer was very happy and enjoying himself. Although he did complain about the occasional large patches of mud floating on the surface.

The last feed was at 10:50am we could clearly see the slipway at Clevedon, a gentle breeze caused a few ripples on thes e a at this point and Tom swam towards the slipway. He exited the water walked up the slipway and completed the swim at 11:28am. Recording a swim time of 6 hours 38 minutes.

Tom swam very consistently throughout the entire swim. In good spirits the entire time. He drank all 250ml of his liquid feed each time very quickly, usually within 30 seconds or less. He confirmed he was happy at each feed. No discomfort with the temperature. He swam back to the boat dressed and hardly shivered on the journey back to Penarth.

RL Edmonds Observer


by Tom Chapman

What inspired you to do this swim?

In my report for swim 1, I outlined why I am trying to swim the four routes across the Bristol Chanel. This swim is to be swim 2, Penarth to Clevedon; a slightly longer route than the first but the same starting point. This one will be on opposite tides to the first so running south on the first leg on an outgoing tide then running up the channel to Clevedon on an incoming tide. Originally I was planning to swim three routes, short, medium and long…but I observed a Swim for Jo Jones on this route last year and it was a cracking day out, perfect weather and it just looked really nice so I booked onto it as well!

Please describe how you planned for the swim.

15 days before I’d swum the route from Penarth to Weston-Super-Mare; that one really was a pathfinding exercise into the currents and as it turned out we were into those currents for a lot of the day, which resulted in quite a long swim and therefore a good confidence booster for this one! Although this swim on paper is slightly longer, the run up to Clevedon should have the push of the incoming tide and with some more recent previous swims recorded, we had a much better idea of the currents. I was hoping for an easier day than the last swim!

How did the swim go, generally? Did you face any unanticipated challenges?

As with the previous swim, training had been a little patchy with no pool time at all this year due to the covid regs but confidence was pretty high based on the swim two weeks before; I knew if I was recovered I at least had a 6 hour swim in the shoulders and I felt this swim should be quicker. Again we moved forward a few days based on the forecast. For this swim that changed the start time from respectable to early!! A 2.45AM alarm saw us down at the boat for 4 and in the water for 4.45AM.

When we met the boat dawn was just starting to break, the conditions were overcast and a little miserable, and a small doubt appeared in the back of mind which I did my best to ignore as we exited the barrage lock gates and motored round to the start. On the slip way the Methyr Mermaid Cath Pendleton and Kerri Hutchinson were waiting with their cameras; so nice of them to get up so early and boosted the spirits!

The tide was quite low and off the end of the slipway so it was a bit of a scramble over the boulders to clear the water but I said my goodbyes and hobbled in, dropping to my belly and commando crawling out to deeper water; not the most dignified start but the easiest way over the rocks!!! I soon settled into my stroke, the water felt cool and a little bit spikey. I don’t tend to pay much mind to the weather forecasts but the one I had seen a few days before it looks like we had light wind over tide to start then wind and tide from behind after the turn with it settling off so I set in to ride it out for a few hours. Really noticeable on the first section I was having to swim quite hard left to stay with the boat, the current was pushing me away. The Bristol Channel is like a giant funnel and has the second highest range in the world so it’s no surprise with Clevedon having a 14.4m tidal range

the currents are pretty strong! After what was probably half an hour or so the current either changed or the boat changed heading and things got a bit easier.

We seemed to get very close to Flatholm Island very quickly but what was weird for me was I could only see one of the islands; the second one seemed to have disappeared! I was puzzling over it for quite a while….and also questioning if we were going to land on flatholm, I could see the lighthouse and the beach getting very very close! As we pushed forward, the second island started to emerge from behind the first one, the angle we had been approaching had lined them up and hidden it from view. It was alike a big car tanker emerging from behind the pilot boat.

Think this was about the point where the sun started to rise and the clouds started to break, calming that doubt in the back of my mind and letting me relax a bit more into the swim. The tide was starting to turn and we were beginning to run away from Flatholm Island. With the current pushing us NE, before too long all I could see out the corner of my eye was the tower of the lighthouse on the island sticking up above the chop…and then nothing; open water. The weather by this point was starting to look good, a little bit hazy but broken blue sky with patches of sun. Ace.

As the tide turned and we started the run up the channel, the water turned from a bit spikey to swell, the nice rolling type that’s lovely to swim in! I couldn’t see anything but the boat. Couldn’t see Wales, couldn’t see England, couldn’t see the Islands; just rolling swell and the boat. My absolute favourite swimming conditions; I was pretty comfortable and quite happy!

A few more feeds and the headlands of England started to appear in the haze. I assumed the one in the very distance was Brean Down where we landed two weeks before. On one of the feeds I asked what the ‘near’ one was and was told it was the one just above Weston Super Mare. I don’t really know this end of the channel very well and wish I’d studied the map a bit more…cos that really didn’t help me trying to work out where we were!

Conditions now were ace, the swell was flattening further and the headlands of England seemed to be flashing past. With the calm demeanor on the boat I was fairly relaxed we were making good progress. This end of the channel is quite muddy. The tide goes out literally hundreds and hundreds of metres in places and exposes big mud banks. On the run towards Clevedon I hit patches the crew described as ‘gravy’. Head in the water everything suddenly went pitch black. Visibility hadn’t been great all day (I could barely see my arm in places) but here it was like someone had turned the lights out, bit crazy!

As I was breathing I had been looking at England on my right for quite some time but on the next feed I finally got a glimpse of land in front of us. I was told it was 2.5 to 3 miles which I figured wasn’t as bad as it sounds as the tide should be helping! Head down swim on. The next clue was the crew looking forward, pointing and scanning the horizon with binoculars; I knew we were running it in to Clevedon and a few cheeky glimpses forward I could see the buildings and finally the people. I couldn’t see the pier….which again confused me somewhat as it’s a pretty big landmark with the landing point just to the side of it!! I think I’m just blind cos suddenly it was just there, a few hundred meters ahead. We looked like we were running straight for it. I was trying to swim right as I figured the current would run us past the slip…but arguing with the boat from the water obviously just leaves you swimming away and probably adding distance! I felt better with my silent protest either way!!

As we got inside the pier I knew it wasn’t going to be long, counting the arches down to the beach, trying to sight the slip….and….yes, it’s over to the right; we’d been pushed past! The last little push was back over to the right to feel the concrete under my hands and land on the slip.

My parents and a few slightly bemused on lookers were on the slip; chatted to them for a few minutes then jumped back in, swam to the boat and headed back across the channel. Swim 2, Penarth to Clevedon, done. 2 from 2; Bristol Channel shallow end (as I like to call it!) complete and on to the bigger swims! 6hrs38; another long one…but great training looking forward to swim 3!


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