Mercedes Gleitze

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Mercedes Gleitze (died 1981) was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honour Swimmer in 1969 and was named a ISHOF Finalist in 2012 for possible induction in the International Swimming Hall of Fame. She was named as a Pioneer Swimmer by the International Swimming Hall of Fame for the Class of 2013 and completed 2 channels of the Oceans Seven.

She is the subject of a documentary film by Clare Delargy entitled Mercedes: The Spirit of a New Age and helped launch the first waterproof watch by Rolex, called the Rolex Oyster.


English Channel

In 1927, the relentless Londoner became the first English woman to swim the English Channel...on her eighth attempt.

North Channel

She then tried to cross the North Channel several times without success. Three times in 1928, Gleitze attempted the North Channel crossing of the Mull of Kintyre from Donaghadee, Ireland to Portpatrick, Scotland, each time ending hypothermic

Strait of Gibraltar

In 1928, she became the first person to swim the 12.8 km (8-mile) Strait of Gibraltar in 12 hours 50 minutes, starting in Tarifa, Spain and finishing in Punta Leona, Morocco.

Other Marathon Swims

She accomplished a variety of marathon swims in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa including setting a British female record of 10 hours 45 minutes for swimming in the Thames River in 1923. In 1929, she swam Lough Neagh in Ireland in 20+ hours. In 1930, she swam Hellespont in 2+ hours. In 1931, she swam across Galloway Bay in 19+ hours and across Sydney Harbor. She swam in Cape Town, South Africa in 1932 to bring the total number of marathon swims to an incredible 51 with 25 of her swims taking at least 26 hours to complete.


With the money she earned from her swims, she established the Mercedes Gleitze Home for the Homeless in Leicester, England which opened in 1933 until it was destroyed during World War II.

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