Vera Rivard swam about 33 miles from England to France on Tuesday

By Rachel DeSantis
September 04, 2020 03:51 PM
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Vera Rivard
| Credit: Darcie DeBlois-Rivard/AP

A 16-year-old girl from New Hampshire successfully swam across the English Channel this week, making her way from England to the shores of France in just over 14 hours.

Vera Rivard celebrated her impressive achievement on Instagram, joking that the very first thing she was doing after accomplishing the feat was taking a nap.

“What an awesome and crazy day! I was able to complete my English Channel swim in 14hr10min (unofficially),” she wrote. “Thank you so much for all the love and support! Now safe and sound back on the dry land. I’m incredibly grateful for everything that has happened. More pictures coming soon… But first, a nap!”

Rivard began her swim on Tuesday around 9:30 a.m., leaving from Samphire Beach in Dover, and eventually came to shore near Calais, France just before midnight, according to the Associated Press.

The water was reportedly 64 degrees Fahrenheit as she swam, and Rivard was accompanied by a pilot boat carrying a crew, as well as her mother and younger sister.

“As she leaves the beach in England for her English Channel attempt, I will be the proudest parent ever! Not if she finishes, not how fast she swims, but that she was brave enough to start,” her mother, Darcie DeBlois-Rivard, wrote on Facebook.

Rivard, who lives in Springfield, New Hampshire, is a student at Kearsarge Regional High School, and has dreamed of swimming across the English Channel her entire life, the Valley News reported.

According to the outlet, she’s the second American to complete the swim this year.

“I wasn’t sure it was going to happen because of everything that is going on right now with the pandemic, and I was just so happy to get in the water,” she told the AP.

Rivard and her family reportedly quarantined in Dover for two weeks before she set off on her journey.

For the athlete, the feat was reportedly a culmination of years of hard work — she completed her first 1-mile open water swim at just 10 years old, and after swimming 25 miles across the Canadian border two years ago, has been training for the English Channel ever since.

Rivard stopped to tread water every 45 minutes so that she could eat an energy gel and powdered energy drink, the AP reported, as Channel Swimming Association rules state that she cannot leave the water or touch anyone or anything that floats for the entire swim.

Upon completing the journey, Rivard shared a photo of her signing her name at Les Fleurs, a pub in Dover where it’s tradition for all who’ve swum across the Channel to sign their name and time on the wall.

According to the Association, the shortest distance across is about 21 miles, though it takes some people longer depending on which side of the French coastline they approach.

Rivard’s journey was about 33 miles thanks to tides and marine traffic, according to The Valley News.

The fastest swim ever completed was done in a little over 7 hours, while the slowest took nearly 27 hours, according to the Association.

The Channel is known for its difficult conditions, including wave heights often higher than 6 feet, cold water and things like jellyfish, seaweed and “the occasional plank of wood” in the water. It’s also a busy shipping lane.

The youngest person to ever swim the English Channel was 11-year-old Thomas Gregory, in 1988, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. However, the Association now requires all swimmers to be at least 16 years old.