Last week, a 16-year-old from New Hampshire successfully swam across the English Channel. The 33-mile swim is the teen’s second major open water course this year. She’s already planning her next big swim.
Vera Rivard left Dover in the United Kingdom around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. She arrived on a beach near Calais, France, just before midnight the same day—a little more than 14 hours. She is the second American to cross the channel this year.
Rivard completed her first one-mile open water swim at the age of 10 in Vermont. She worked up to a 25-mile swim two years ago.
So many swimmers hope to swim the body of water between Great Britain and France that would-be crossers must book a slot. Rivard booked hers just after her 25-mile feat. She’s been training ever since.
“I wasn’t sure it was going to happen because of everything that is going on right now with the pandemic,” she says. “I was just so happy to get in the water at that point.”
Rivard and her family quarantined for two weeks before her swim in Dover.
On the big day, a pilot boat accompanied the teen swimmer. Her mother and younger sister were aboard as the crew.
“As she leaves the beach in England for her English Channel attempt, I will be the proudest parent ever! Not if she finishes, not how fast she swims, but that she was brave enough to start,” Rivard’s mother, Darcie DeBlois-Rivard, wrote beforehand on Facebook.
“Roly-poly” waves and 64-degree Fahrenheit water were just fine with the swimmer.
“I tend to get a little happier when the waves get a little choppy,” Rivard says. “I kind of get a little spark in my eye.”
In compliance with the Channel Swimming Association rules, Rivard did not leave the water or touch anyone or anything that floats during the swim. But she did stop to tread water every 45 minutes while consuming an energy gel and energy drink.
“I knew I was either going to start in the dark or end in the dark because there aren’t enough hours in the day,” she says. “I put a light on the back of my goggles so the boat [could] see me more easily.”
Rivard had already completed a long-distance swim around Manhattan Island in July. She hopes to swim a third major open water course to Santa Catalina Island off the California coast—the third in a “triple crown” of long-distance swims—someday. Just keep swimming, Vera!
(Long distance swimmer Vera Rivard swims the English Channel between Dover, England, and Calais, France, as a channel ferry sails in the background. Photo Darcie DeBlois-Rivard via AP)