Enrique Tirabocchi (variously spelled as Enrico Tiraboschi and Enrico Tiroboschi) was an Italian marathon swimmer who in August 1926 became the fourth person to successfully swim across the English Channel. He was the first person to swim from France to England and finished the swim in 16 hours 33 minutes, beating the record set by Matthew Webb when he was the first to make the crossing more than 50 years earlier.
In a February 1920 attempt to swim to swim from Colonia, Uruguay across the River Plate to Buenos Aires, Tirabocchi set a record by being in the water for 24 hours 2 minutes, as the first member of the 24-hour club. He had made it within 3 miles of finishing the 32-mile (51.9 km) distance.
English Channel Swims
Tirabocchi had made an unsuccessful attempt to cross the English Channel on 29 August 1922, but was forced out of the water due to exhaustion after 19.5 hours, having it made it within two miles of St. Margaret's Bay.
Tirabocchi entered the water at Cape Gris Nez on the French side of the Channel at 8:00 on the evening of 11 August 1923, telling the assembled crowd that "I'm going to follow [Henry] Sullivan's example" and started out in an ebb tide that lasted an hour. Through the night he went with the flood tide. He was accompanied by thirty friends who followed him on his route, taking turns swimming with him in the water and lighting the way for him with an acetylene lamp at night. He drank some coffee in the morning, but the only food he ate on the trip was an occasional sugar cube.
The pattern of the tides shifted in Tirabocchi's favor, and he was able to enter the cove between Shakespeare Cliff and the Admiralty Pier at the Port of Dover a half-hour before the tides would have turned against him, and would have sent him further away from England as the tide would have carried him in the opposite direction. Tirabocchi reached the English shore having used up almost all of his energy and stumbled into the crowd that had come to cheer him on, completing his swim at 12:33 on 12 August. His support team arrived in a row boat and changed him into some fresh clothing, described by The New York Times as being "as though they were dressing some little infant." After recuperating a bit from the rigors of the swim, he entered a rowboat that took him to a tugboat and returned to France almost immediately after his arrival in England. He received a check for 1,000 Pounds from the Daily Sketch and was awarded a gold medal for his efforts by the Channel Swimming Club. Tirabocchi donated the prize he received from the newspaper to charity, giving the money to the International Swimming Federation.
Tirabocchi's time of 16 hours 33 minutes cut more than five hours from the previous fastest time, which had been set by Matthew Webb in 1875 when he made the first successful English Channel swim, and was more than nine hours faster than the time set by American Henry Sullivan who had made the England-to-France crossing earlier that week.
After Tirabocchi entered Italy from Switzerland on 11 September 1923, Italian customs officials at Domodossola confiscated a trophy he had been awarded for his Channel swim, saying that he needed to pay import duty on the item. The swimmer insisted that the cup was not an item for sale and successfully appealed to Benito Mussolini to retrieve the award.