Ocean swimmer Craig Clarke sets his sights on the English Channel, after training in the waters off Newcastle

How does a 7 kilometer ocean swimming at dawn sound?

Oh, followed by a 30 minute 10 degree ice bath.

This is the life of someone who has dedicated the last seven years of his life to the Mount Everest of swimming: the English Channel.

Craig Clarke is a 57-year-old miner from Hunter Valley. He also has salt water running through his veins.

Mr. Clarke usually swims solo, but enjoys the company of other swimmers. (Provided: Craig Clarke)

The ocean, despite its obvious threats, is his happy place.

“I’ve always had a huge love for the ocean, it’s always been my favorite place to swim,” he said.

Mr Clarke swam the English Channel in 2015 to experience it. From there, he was hooked.

“It was quite cold at 11 degrees. I just wanted to understand the channel, the whole aura of the place,” he said.

Two swimmers walk on rocks at dawn
Mr Clarke often trains at Merewether Beach in Newcastle.(Provided: Craig Clarke)

From there, a five-year plan was set in motion.

That plan included thousands of morning swims in the ocean beyond the breakers off Newcastle, where the water is deep and danger lurks.

“I’m totally convinced that sharks don’t see us as something to eat or attack. I’ve always had the theory that if you move around they won’t come near you,” he said. declared.

Homemade channel grease keeps jellies at bay

Sharks are not a problem in the English Channel as it is too cold.

Jellyfish are another story.

That’s where Mr. Clarke’s homemade channel grease comes in.

Equal parts lanolin – which is wool fat – paraffin and sunscreen, it helps relieve jellyfish stings and irritation during the 12-hour crossing.

Mr Clarke had planned to attempt the chain in 2020, but the pandemic got in the way.

Instead, he became the first person to swim from Catherine Hill Bay to Newcastle.

He did it in winter and covered the 30 km distance in less than 12 hours.

A man in the ocean is about to have a drink offered to him by a member of the support team
Mr Clarke stops for a drink while swimming between Catherine Hill Bay and Nobbys two years ago.(ABC Newcastle: Anthony Scully)

Learn from the best

If Mr. Clarke makes it through the Strait of Dover in July, he will be in elite company.

Since 1875, when Captain Matthew Webb made the first crossing, only 1,749 people have successfully swum across the channel.

One of them was Australian Des Renford, who crossed 19 times and lit the fire for Mr Clarke’s ambition.

“In my eyes, he will always be the king of the channel,” Mr. Clarke said.

“I was mesmerized by the image of Des with the channel fat and his size and shape; he also stood out as a real character.

man outside swimming center
Channel record holder Trent Grimsey said Mr Clarke’s preparation had been perfect.(Provided: Trent Grinsey)

Australian Trent Grimsey holds the record for the fastest crossing ever.

In 2012, he swam the channel in 6 hours 55 minutes, when he was 24 years old.

He is also Mr. Clarke’s trainer.

“Craig did really well. I’m really confident in everything Craig has done, that he’ll have a really good swim that day,” Grimsey said.

When asked how he would feel if a man pushing 60 broke his record, Mr Grimsey burst out laughing.

“I would like to keep the record for a bit longer, but if he does I will be very, very happy for him,” he said.

Mr Clarke’s swim will take place on July 8 and will raise funds for the Beyond Blue mental health support service.