Billy Butlin Cross Channel International Swim
The Daily Mail races and the Billy Butlin Cross Channel International Swims were a series of professional marathon swimming competitions across the English Channel that brought the best marathon swimmers in the world to the Dover Strait. Sponsored and organized by Billy Butlin of Butlin's Holiday Camps between 1953 and 1959, the races followed the tradition of the Daily Mail races across the English Channel in 1950-1951. There was no race in 1952.
Daily Mail and Billy Butlin Cross Channel International Swims
The first Daily Mail race, was held in 1950 and was limited to 20 participants from around the world, sponsored by the London Daily Mail. Hassan Abdel Rehim, a 41-year-old Egyptian won the first race in a then-record of 10 hours and 50 minutes over an international field. The results were as follows:
1. Hassan Abdel Rehim (Egypt) - 10:50
2. Roger Le Morvan (France) 11:02
3. Mareeh Hassan Hamad (Egypt) 12:10
4. Sam Rockett (Great Britain) 14:17
5. William Barnie (Scotland) 14:50
6. Eileen Fenton (Great Britain) 15:31 - First woman
7. Jason Zirganos (Greece) 16:19
8. Antonio Abertondo (Argentina) 15:25
9. Jenny Kammersgaard (Denmark) 16:30
DNF: Emile Soron (France), Eduard Mussche (Belgium), David Frank (USA), Willy van Rijsel (Holland), G.B. Brewster (Great Britain), Panagiotis Kamberous (Greece), Elna Andersen (Denmark), Margaret Ann Feather, Fahmmy Attallah (Egypt).
In 1951, another Egyptian, 34-year-old Mareeh Hassan Hamad, won the race in 12 hours 12 minutes by just one minute over Frenchman Roger Le Morvan in another close race. Roger had also placed second in the 1950 Daily Mail race. In addition to France, England and Egypt, swimmers also came from Canada, Argentina, Sweden, Peru, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark. The results were as follows:
1. Mareeh Hassan Hamad (Egypt) 12:12
2. Roger Le Morvan (France) 12:13
3. Hassan Abdel Rehim (Egypt) - 12:25
4. Saied El Arabi (Egypt) 12:42
5. Brenda Fisher (England) 12:42 - First woman
6. Godfrey Chapman (England) 12:56
7. Winnie Roach (Canada) 13:25
8. Enriqueta Duarte (Argentina) 13:26
9. Lars Beril Warle (Sweden) 13:28
10. Raphael Morand (France) 13:45
11. Jenny James (Wales) 13:55
12. Jason Zirganos (Greece) 14:01
13. Jan Van Hemsbergen (Netherlands) 14:03
14. Sally Bauer (Sweden) 14:04
15. Antonio Abertondo (Argentina) 14:14
16. William E. (Ned) Barnie (Scotland) 15:01
17. Jenny Kammersgaard (Denmark) 15:38
18. Daniel Carpio (Peru) 23:05
No race was held.
The 1953 race was plagued by inclement weather and poor conditions and had no finishers.
The 1954 race saw Portugal's Batista Pereira win in 12 hours 25 minutes over Egypt's Hamad in 12 hours 49 minutes. The official results were as follows:
1. Batista Pereira (Portugal) 12:25
2. Mareeh Hassan Hamad (Egypt) 12:49
3. Brenda Fisher (England) 14:36 - First woman
4. Jason Zirganos (Greece) 16:23
5. Margaret Ann Dixon [Feather] (England) 16:22
6. Antonio Abertondo (Argentina) 16:54
7. Mohamed El Soussi (Syria) 17:55
The 1955 Billy Butlin Cross Channel International Swim was won by Egypt's formidable Abdul Latif Abou Heif in 11 hours 44 minutes over America's Tom Park in 12 hours 2 minutes. The official results were as follows:
Swimmers of the 1956 Billy Butlin's International Cross-Channel Swimming Race included 1 Jack McClelland (32 from Belfast), 2 Jack Cloutier (24) Canada, 3 Dogan Sahin (25 from Turkey), 4 Ronald Tarr (19 from London), 5 Clarence Conza (33 from New Zealand), 6 Ian Tirrell (33 from South Africa), 7 Erik Martin (53 from Sweden), 8 Jenny James (28 from Wales), 9 Maria Meesters (17 from Holland), 10 Baptista Pereira (35 from Portugal), 11 Margaret Sweeney (26 from New Zealand), 12 Greta Anderson (29 from Denmark), 13 Elizabeth Wild (22 from New Zealand), 14 Florence Burdett (27 from America), 15 Diana Cleverley (22 from New Zealand), 16 Brenda Fisher (28 from Grimsby), 17 Thomas Park (32 from California), 18 Harold Bracewell (47 from Blackpool), 19 Edward (Ned) Barnie (59 from Scotland), 20 Arthur Rizzo (28 from Malta), 21 Mohammed El Soussi (28 from Syria), 22 Fredrick Oldman (40 from Huddersfield), 23 Mihir Zen (27 from India), 24 Alfredos Camarero (25 from Argentina). Toufic Bleik (25 from Lebanon), Kurt Feilen (30 from Germany), John Healey (29 from Ireland), and Edna Borenstein (19 from Israel). 14 escort pilots turned back without attempting to land. There was an opinion that the race should not have been started under the prevailing weather conditions which were forecast. 8 swimmers started, but none were successful.
Greta Andersen, an Olympic gold and silver medalist in pool swimming, battled the world's best men in many pro marathon swims around the world, and became the only person to win two English Channel races. She won in 1957 and 1958. During the 1957 race, the conditions were terrible and only two swimmers finished with Andersen finishing in 13 hours 53 minutes over England's Ken Wray in 16 hours.
Television images of the 1957 race are here.
In 1958, the men and women were formally separated into two different races...but that did not stop Greta Andersen from winning overall in 11 hours 59 minute over Pakistan's Brojen Das in 14 hours 52 minutes, England's Ronald Tarr (15:12), France's Raphael Morand (16:22) and Mexico's Ramon Ocana (16:57).
The 1959 race was won by Argentina's Alfredo Camarero in 11 hours 43 minutes over Herman Willemse (12:49) and other top swimmers including Greta Andersen (15:25) who could not complete the race for a three-peat, and Myra Thompson of California.
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