Bay Swim ARCHIVES Online

Information about...

Captain James Campbell

|||| 1998 English Channel Swimmer ||||

   Archives Home

     Next Bay Swim

     Yearly Results

     Past Finishers

     Summary Charts


     Past Conditions

     News and Views

     1-Mile Challenge

     Related Links

 | Lin-Mark Sports | March of Dimes

Jim Campbell

Forty-Nine-Year-Old Captain James R. Campbell completed his first Great Chesapeake Bay Swim in 1998 in a time of 2:33:14 (476th place).  Two months later, Jim Campbell also completed a solo swim of the English Channel.  A brief account of his English Channel swim is available on the internet in the Navy & Marine Corps Medical News.  The account is copied below.

Navy & Marine Corps Medical News
(MN-98-35);  September  4, 1998.
This service distributes news and information to Sailors and Marines, their families, civilian employees, and retired Navy and Marine Corps families. Further dissemination of this email is encouraged.

Headline:  Dedicated training helps sailor swim English Channel
By Earl W. Hicks, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

 WASHINGTON -- Captain James Campbell, MSC, a microbiologist, joined a relatively small fraternity of swimmers August 16 when he braved the cold water, fatigue and ships to swim the English Channel. The former high school and college competitive swimmer completed the 21-mile swim in 17 hours and 41 minutes.

Campbell, who is the Navy program manager for biotechnology and environment at the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C., spent the last two years accumulating about 3,000 miles swimming while preparing for the event. Each morning from 5 to 8 a.m., six days a week, he swam laps in the Naval Research Laboratory pool.

"I gradually started doing longer swims, about six or eight miles across the Potomac and Hudson River," said the 49-year old Honolulu, Hawaii, native. "It was small potatoes compared to the coming ‘Mt Everest’ of swimming."

Campbell arrived in England two weeks before his Channel departure date to acclimate himself to the cold water. He said that most people fail the swim challenge not because they are out of shape, but because they experience hypothermia. According to Campbell a swimmer can be in the water 12 to 20 hours, depending on how fast he or she swims, and during this lengthy exposure the cold will have an affect. The water was about 61 degrees Fahrenheit when Campbell made his swim.

The normally healthy-thinking and athletic Campbell made an abnormal decision about three months before the swim to ensure success in his Channel-crossing.

"I tacked on about 15 or 20 extra pounds of fat for insulation," he said."Channel swimming rules do not permit wearing a wet suit, and I would just be in ‘speedos.’ I became exhausted during the swim, but I did not get cold."

On the day of his swim, Campbell arrived in Dover, England, to begin the grueling effort to reach Cape Gris-nez, France, the shortest distance to land across the Channel. A 4 a.m. effort to avoid the busiest shipping traffic was cancelled because of 18 to 20 knot winds and 7-foot seas. As he began his 6 a.m. odyssey he stepped into the chilly water’s 3- to 5-foot seas.

"For the first four hours, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it," Campbell said. "It was not really swimming, it was like surviving the big waves."

Continuing with dogged determination, Campbell plowed on through the water, taking infrequent interludes to suck down a high carbohydrate drink for energy. During these "feedings" he adhered to the rules by not touching the hand that was feeding him or holding onto the pace boat.

After about ten hours of being beat up by the Channel, Campbell said he "hit the wall" of exhaustion. That was when he had to get mentally tough.

"It was just not possible I was going to quit," he said. At about 11:45 that night he arrived at the Cape. Even with his planning, the current had carried him another couple of miles past his projected exit point. With a new moon providing very little light, the Channel inflicted its last pain as Campbell cut his chest, legs and arms climbing over barnacle-incrusted rocks making his way to shore. As he stood bloodied and exhausted on French soil, Campbell managed a smile -- he was victorious over the Channel.

  All rights reserved