Channeling passion

Columbus resident swims English span as part of relay, sets sights on solo outing

Last month, Eric Bradley swam the English Channel as part of a four-person relay team.

Next year, he plans to do it solo.

The 49-year-old Columbus resident has been swimming since his high school days at Tell City. Since then, he has swam for recreation and also in open water competitions and sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.

“If anybody were to meet me, they’d say, ‘You’re not built like an Ironman triathlete,’” Bradley said. “The English Channel swim really favors my strength, which is swimming. This relay is a stepping stone for a solo attempt that I’m attempting to do next August.”

After Bradley became interested in swimming the English Channel, he went looking for a team. It just so happened that Carolyn Hollingsworth of Santa Monica, California; Rebecca Konkel of San Francisco and Peter Wagstaff of Cambridge, England, were looking for a fourth swimmer.

Hollingsworth had intended to do a the 20-mile crossing solo, but had health issues. A coach that she had hired put her together with Konkel and Wagstaff.

“This group said they needed a swimmer who could do 3,000 meters (1.9 miles) an hour or better, so I stuck my hand up, and they invited me to do that,” Bradley said.

Each of the swimmers had to do a two-hour training swim in water 60 degrees or colder water. Bradley did his on Memorial Day in Lake Michigan.

At 4 a.m. Sept. 23, Hollingsworth entered the water at Shakespeare Beach near Dover, England. The air temperature was 57 degrees, and the water temperature was 66 degrees.

Following Hollingsworth, Bradley took his turn, followed by Konkel and Wagstaff. They continued, swimming three times each before Hollingsworth took her fourth turn from 4 to 5 p.m.

Tidal currents caused the swimmers to be pushed north for about three hours, causing them to stall two miles from the French coast. But they persevered.

Bradley was the final leg in the relay. He swam the final mile to Cap Gris Nez near Wissant, France, in about 20 minutes, giving the team a total time of 13 hours, 33 minutes.

“I had totally underestimated how cool it was going to be,” Bradley said. “I went into it thinking ‘This is really just three hours of swimming.’ But just by sheer luck, I was the one up to be the finisher. I was stunned at what a sense of accomplishment it was.”

After a few minutes on the French shore, the group headed back on the boat to Dover. There, they were greeted by residents with champagne.

Between swims in the Channel, Bradley consumed an apple and the British equivalent of a couple nutri-grain bars. But when they got back to Dover, the group found a steakhouse, and Bradley ordered the largest steak on the menu.

“That was probably the most interesting piece for me — the camaraderie and the team accomplishment of getting across there,” Bradley said. “That feeling of all of us finishing was unmatched in my memory.”

Eric Bradley

Name: Eric Bradley

Age: 49

High School: Tell City

College: Purdue

Residence: Columbus

Occupation: Sales engineer for National Instruments

Family: Wife Kathy swam for Anderson Madison Heights, children Jared and Raegan both swam for Columbus East

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.