Sean Conway talks about his Land’s End John O’Groats swim

Sean Conway is attempting to become the first person to swim from Land's End to John O'Groats

On June 30th adventurer Sean Conway will set off on a swim that has never before been tried.

He will attempt to swim the iconic route from Land’s End to John O’Groats, completing the length of the English Channel each day for 50 days to reach the 1000 mile or so distance!

Goggleblog caught up with him in between training and sorting out a boat for his support crew….

Have you done that much training for the event?

I really haven’t done that much. I’ve trained for about four months with Ironmanmate Mark Kleanthous to work on my technique. I swam in lakes as a child in South Africa – everyone in South Africa is sporty – but worked out that throughout my 20s I’d only really swam about three miles in total. But I wanted a challenge that was in the UK and thought that a swim would be good because I’m not an expert swimmer by any means. I was surprised to find out that no one had swum from Land’s End to John O’Groats before – it’s such an iconic route for everyone from walkers to skateboarders. Since announcing the challenge people have emailed to say that they would like to do it next year. That is exactly what I wanted to happen.

Were you inspired by swimmers like Diana Nyad who has attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida on several occasions?

Actually I wasn’t really familiar with her. It was only when I was doing my research that I came across her. My big inspiration was my friend David Cornthwaite who swam 1000 miles down the Missouri. It  looked like a great adventure and really tough. That’s exactly what I look for. A tough adventure. It has to be both.

What are you up to at the moment?

I’ve just been trying to sort out all the logistics of the trip. It’s taking up so much of my time, much more than the training. Getting to the start line is the hardest part. I need to get a boat from Portsmouth to Land’s End for the start on Sunday June 30th, but because the weather has been bad I haven’t been able to get the boat there yet. I looked at buying a boat in Land’s End but it’s just out of my budget. I’ve also got to get all the crew together. Feeding the crew, making sure they are safe and keeping them entertained is logistically time consuming.

How much support do you have?

I have a small team of three who will be helping me during the course of the challenge. The route right around the coast is 2000 miles, but I’m actually looking at a distance of around 1000 miles. From Cornwall I will swim up the coast to the Wales and then we are looking to travel up on the East Coast of Ireland (if possible at all) before heading up to John O’Groats.

Sean's route from Land's End to John O'Groats

How many miles are you aiming to swim a day?

When I conceived the challenge I thought it would be a good idea to swim the length of the English Channel each day so that’s around 21 miles. I’ve worked out that if I swim that distance each day it should take around 50 days in total. With rest days the challenge will be around two months, any longer and it will start to get quite cold in Scotland. Also I only have my crew till the beginning of September as they have other commitments.

What are the main dangers you will face along the way?

Really it’s jellyfish and ferries of course though I hope the crew will manage to steer me away from them . I’ll be wearing a neoprene cap, full Speedo wetsuit and a balaclava, but I might still be stung. A friend told me about killer Orca whales off the coast off Scotland. There may also be some sharks but thankfully no one in Britain has been killed by a shark. Still, it would be kind of cool to turn up to the pub with a scar from a shark bite to show off to my mates.

Have you had to bulk up for the swim so you don’t get too cold?

I’ve tried but really haven’t been able to put that much weight on. I’ve got a very fast metabolism. I’m not particularly big but thankfully I’m in proportion so the Speedo wetsuit fits me perfectly. I don’t feel cold at all. With a couple of caps on, including the neoprene cap, I’ve actually been quite warm in training though I expect to be a bit cooler during the actual swim.

Sean Conway in his swimming gear provided by title sponsor Speedo. Image:

Can people come and join you?

I’m trying to make the challenge as interactive as possible with regular blog posts, tweets and images from the journey. There will also be a GPS on my waist or on the kayak so people will be able to track my progress every 10 minutes. The good thing is that it’s not a race so I can take my time to some extent. I’ve got a few friends joining me as well as Olympic open water swimmer Keri Anne Payne (Hopefully. She is checking her diary. Also I might not ask to race her. Ha!) Anyone can come and join me as long as they can make their own way to the shore and they don’t mind swimming at my pace which will be fairly slow I suspect.

Finally, who are you raising money for?

I’m raising money for War Child, particularly for children in the Central African Republic. I don’t think children should have to suffer because of adults who go to war.

You can find more out about the challenge on Sean’s Conway’s website: www.SwimmingBritain.co.uk

You can also give money here: http://www.justgiving.com/SwimmingBritain

You can see Sean talking about his upcoming adventure here on YouTube: