Friday, June 17, 1966

TRIUMPHING over a choppy sea and an almost unbroken blanket of heavy fog, the Radcliffe Swimming Club long distance team slashed 29 minutes off the English Channel relay world record.

Despite the difficult weather conditions that added an extra eight weary miles to their ordeal, the team completed the challenge in nine hours and 29 minutes on Sunday.

But for the fog and their wide deviation from the shortest route, the lads would almost certainly have beaten the world record by two hours and experts described their performance as "magnificent".

The team was made up of Bill Pearce, Arthur Marshall, Dave Dewsbury, Tony Heaton, Stuart Pickup, and John Stanistreet. Reserve swimmer Barrie Middleton was not called upon to do a stint in the water.

Mr Heaton, the captain, said: "We are naturally thrilled that all the training we have done since Christmas has been worth doing, but this is something we could not have done without Wally Lord [trainer] and Bill Pearce Sr [manager].

"Wally has pushed us to the limit at times and we have sat down and wondered whether it was all worth it. Now we are sure it was."

For much of the swim, the team were surrounded by a drama they knew nothing about, as two lifeboats and an RAF rescue helicopter searched the water on Sunday morning, following reports of distress calls.

It was, in fact, team members cheering on their teammate Arthur Marshall over the loud hailer as he raced towards the Kent coast.

The team only learned of the search and radio newsflashes that had raised anxiety among friends and family once their escort boat drew into Folkestone harbour.

News of their record-breaking time came through on television that evening and was greeted with huge cheers from the crowds gathered at the Swan Hotel in Stand Lane.

The Mayor, Cllr J Lomax, said: "I am delighted with their success, particularly as everyone was so upset by early news that the team might be in difficulty in the channel.

"I hope to arrange an official function to recognise their achievement."