Kirkwood’s Jonathan Whiting tries to swim the English Channel in a 9.5 hour battle | Webster Kirkwood Times

Jonathan Whiting, resident of Kirkwood in Dover Beach in England, holds the June 11, 2021 issue of The Webster-Kirkwood Times in which his quest to swim the English Channel was featured. | photo courtesy of Jonathan Whiting

Kirkwood resident Jonathan Whiting battled the Atlantic Ocean for 9.5 hours in his recent attempt to swim across the English Channel.

With 12.5 of the chain’s 21 miles covered and his safety a priority, Whiting’s swim to raise money for cancer research in honor of his late wife ended with a weary smile of gratitude.

“I fought off four-foot waves and choppy tides for as long as I could,” Whiting said of attempting to swim across the English Channel on the night of July 28-29.

“The seaweed was more like a sea rope. Sometimes at the top of the waves I was higher than the people in my pilot boat,” he added. “It was emotional, but so rewarding.”

Whiting, 60, returned home on August 3. Readers of the Webster-Kirkwood Times may recall that this challenge was very personal for Whiting. He embarked on the daring fundraising venture to fight the cancer of cholangiocarcinoma, an obscure bile duct cancer that claimed the life of his 53-year-old wife, Lori, on October 11, 2016.

Whiting trained in swimming for two years, which included soaking in tubs filled with four seven-pound ice packs. He also worked with California coach and retired competitive swimmer Carol Brieter, who conquered the English Channel in 1983.

In preparation for the Whiting Channel swim, Breiter made sure he completed a 10-mile swim in Hawaii and a six-hour swim in the 57-degree water of Lake Tahoe at 6,237 feet above sea level. above sea level.

“I’ve put my life aside for the past two years to train for this, and I’m overwhelmed with the support of so many people,” Whiting said.

“I work through the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, and they told me that over 5,000 people were following me online and watching me that night. I could really feel their support while I was in the water, and it made such a difference,” Whiting continued, adding that he felt his late wife’s presence while swimming, as well as throughout the swim. travel.

“I wasn’t nervous. I was ready to go — more like “let me in,” he said. “I was swimming for Lori, but I was also swimming to help people in the future. I felt empowered, excited and yes, nauseous towards the end.

Whiting said the waters were so choppy as he attempted to swim across the channel that even Coach Brieter was seasick in the escort boat despite wearing an anti-motion sickness patch and after taking prescription drugs.


Jonathan Whiting is testing the waters ahead of his July 28 attempt to swim across the English Channel to raise funds for cholangiocarcinoma in honor of his late wife. | photo courtesy of Jonathan Whiting

Having covered 12.5 miles in 9.5 hours after his attempt in the English Channel, Whiting said it became his longest swim ever. He said he typically swims two miles an hour in an indoor pool, so his flume attempt is equivalent to swimming about 19 miles in a pool. It was also the first time he had swum in the poo of a baby whale.

The English Channel is 21 miles across. Due to tides and currents, the swim route is S-shaped making it closer to 26-28 miles. Historically, it takes between seven and 27 hours to complete the swim. The water temperature is 57 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Only 1 in 10 people who try it complete the swim. Only 1,775 solo swimmers have completed the swim since records date back to 1875. Swimmers are not permitted to touch another human while completing the course – food and drink must be delivered by long pole from the boat. escort/pilot.

Whiting said 13 boat pilots are essential in an attempt to swim across the channel.

“They are licensed local professionals who know the water and the conditions, usually their whole lives,” Whiting said. “They book the swims for three years, and the only reason I went in when I did was due to a cancellation.”

Whiting’s original swim window was between July 17-23, 2022. He was ranked second, which meant a person would get dibs on the swim depending on weather conditions.

“I arrived in England four days early and initially thought I was going to swim on July 22 but we couldn’t due to the dangerous water conditions,” he said. “The decision to go is up to your pilot, and the wind has to be less than 12 miles per hour. The last week of July turns into higher low tides due to alignment with the moon. It was either that, or I had to wait until at least June 2023 for another round.

On July 28, Whiting said he got up thinking he was going to start swimming at 4am. Then his departure time was moved to 8 a.m. It was eventually rescheduled for 10:30 p.m., meaning he swam after being awake and waiting all day. The whiting swam all night until about 8 a.m. the next day.

“Locals call these up-and-down waiting periods the ‘Dover Coaster,'” he said.

Before leaving England, Whiting said he had an hour-long “farewell swim” around the English Channel. He intends to continue swimming and maybe make another attempt to swim to the channel in 15 years once he turns 75 so he can become the oldest swimmer to complete the challenge.

“I feel like I have it in me,” he added.

Whiting is grateful for the support he has received throughout this journey. He thanks his employer, Hutson Gobble LLC, a staff member of a Webster Groves certified public accounting firm, for giving him time off and matching employee donations to the cause.

Whiting is also grateful to Barb Frances, owner of Sugar Shack in Kirkwood. Frances laminated and published the Webster-Kirkwood Times June 2021 story about Whiting’s efforts at his shop with a container labeled “Change for the Channel” to help raise donations for the cause.

Whiting raised $32,800 to reach his goal of $100,000. To donate to his cholangiocarcinoma efforts, visit Donors can also text TeamCCF9 on 71777.