Record English Channel Crossing – in a Fenn Mako6

Sunday, 28 October 2007 14:43 | Written by 
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Nigel Hatton had a dream - to set a new World Record for crossing the English Channel in a Kayak.  Problem was that the current holder of that record, Ian Tordoff, had blown him away in a Sea Kayak race in 2006, so he decided to find someone else to do the job for him.


Ian Wynne channel crossing in surf ski
Ian Wynne starts the crossing (Pic: Nigel Hatton)


Having advertised on his website,, he finally settled on two contenders: Mark Ressel (whom he rated as the best ski racer in the UK) and Ian Wynne, a former Olympic medalist sprinter (bronze in 500m K1 at the 2004 Athens games).   The initial plan was that both men would make the attempt but they were concerned that, there being only one escort vessel, that one might slow the other down so they settled the question of who should go ahead by racing together at the Poole Harbour Canoe Race.  Ian won, (Mark had a shoulder injury) and so it was decided.


Surf Ski Channel Crossing route
Dover to Cap Gris Nez

The Voyage

On the morning of 5th October, Nigel met with the team: Ian, who was to paddle a new Fenn Mako6; Andy King the pilot for the attempt and two witnesses from the Channel Swimming Association.

Just outside Dover Harbour, Ian got on the ski and paddled into Shakespeare Beach to be interviewed by Radio Kent before starting the 33km paddle to Cap Gris Nez.

The paddle was relatively uneventful, the massive wake from a 500ton speed ferry providing the only excitement at the start.  The wind began to increase, blowing from the left as Ian paddled towards the French coast and eventually he crossed behind the escort boat and took refuge from the wind behind its bulk.

Ian managed an almost constant cadence of 84 strokes per minute, but the sea state (waves and current) was such that his speed varied between 6.3kt (11.6kph) and 5.7kt (10.5kph) as they neared Cap Gris Nez.

The record

Finally the pilot boat could go no further and Ian paddled into shore, raising his hand to indicate when his feet touched the bottom so the observers could take his time.  He'd completed the crossing in 2:59:06, well inside the old record of 3:21:54.


Ian Wynne Surf ski channel crossing
Ian arrives in France

Ian's wife had crossed the channel in a more conventional manner (by car ferry) and met him on the beach with champagne.

(Rumour has it that Ian's stomach didn't manage to retain its grip on the champagne as the pilot boat rolled its way back across the channel - but I'm not allowed to show the photo...)


Ian Wynne surf ski channel crossing
Congratulations back on board the pilot boat (Pic: Nigel Hatton)

Ian and Nigel reckon that given ideal conditions and more training time (Ian had paddled skis for only three weeks before the trip) they could cut the time down to 2:35 or less.  Nigel's next project is to break the doubles record - in May 2008.

Ian was well pleased.  "So I am now a devotee of ski paddling," he said, "and would love to do more of the international races.  It's just a question of time and money to get there! (And I need a lot more experience yet to be competitive with the best however I have thought about the Dubai race.)"


Cap Gris Nez - surf ski channel crossing
Oh how she rolls... Goodbye France (Pic: Nigel Hatton)

Well done guys!