Channel challenge begins

MARATHON Suffolk swimmer Paul Hopfesnperger has begun his attempt at a record breaking two-way Channel swim.

James Mortlock

MARATHON swimmer Paul Hopfesnperger has failed in his gruelling record-breaking bid to swim the Channel and back because of “appalling” weather conditions.

But the plucky Suffolk county councillor said he was not downbeat by the setback and took heart that despite treacherous seas he managed to swim the first leg and join the exclusive club of only 84 who have managed to cross the 21 miles between Dover and Calais twice.

The battling swimmer, who completed his first Channel swim last year, set out from Dover at just after 8pm on Thursday evening and was immediately buffeted by fierce waves: “We had extremely rough conditions - as soon as I got in it was like being tossed round in a washing machine - I knew straight away that a two-way swim wouldn't be possible.

“I battled through it for hours - it was pitch dark with no moon or stars - it was a really, really horrible swim.”

As he reached France, he said he was twice sucked back from his landing beach by mighty waves: “I just kept going and eventually managed to get there but I knew I couldn't go back.

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“But I'm not disappointed, in fact I'm quite ecstatic that I got across considering the weather and to be the 84th person in history to swim the Channel twice is quite something.”

Asked whether he would consider trying for the double swim again and become the oldest man to have done it, Mr Hopfensperger, of Bury St Edmunds, said: “Right this second I don't ever want to see that sea again but that will change - it's still there and I'll never say never.”

Now, however, the 45-year-old independent councillor has other swimming goals in mind - one of them an upcoming 15km river canyon swim in Mexico.