THE thought of dipping a toe into the freezing English channel at 3.30am would turn most people cold.
But one plucky Heckmondwike man did just that and more when he took on a gruelling challenge for Martin House children’s hospice.
Alister Stocks, 48, has completed what he calls the ‘ultimate’ challenge for long distance swimmers, in just 15h 34m.
Setting out from England at 3.30am, he swam almost constantly. He paused every half an hour to drink sips of water – longer breaks could add hours to the crossing – and managed the incredible feat on just half a Jaffa Cake.
And his first job on touching dry land in France was to collect some stones to give to his daughter Alexandra, six, as a souvenir.
He said: “It was horrible. It was really choppy and the waves were uncomfortable.
“I was prepared to be swimming for up to 20 hours and I knew the waves would take a lot out of me early on.”
Alister was escorted across by boat captain Reg Brickle, who escorted Little Britain star David Walliams on his Channel swim for Comic Relief.
He said: “You can only stop briefly because the current and the tide moves you. It won’t do you any favours.
“My escort passed me a Jaffa Cake on a stick in a basket. It had a wash in salt water. It was horrible – I ate half and slung the rest. At that point I didn’t know that was all I would eat.”
Alister said he suffered a jellyfish sting as well as curious glances from low-flying gulls.
He said: “They came really close – they were interested!”
The current means swimmers are pulled along by the tides, adding miles – and hours – onto the crossing.
He said: “When I saw France I still had about four hours to go. It felt incredible. Eventually I got closer to the shore and my fingertips were brushing the sand underneath. I felt elated. I had much more energy than I though I’d have.
“I asked if I was allowed to get up and walk. I was so surprised my legs were working.
“All I could think about was getting out and getting out and getting some stones for Alexandra.” Exhausted Alister then faced a three hour boat trip back to England.
He said: “I was sick all the way back. I had to go to bed sitting up that night because I was choking and being sick.
“My throat had closed up.”
He believes he is the first person from Heckmondwike to have swam the Channel.
And Alister, who has completed a number of long distance swimming challenges including across Lake Windermere and back is thinking of his next challenge.
He added: “I have a picture of Loch Lomond and I keep looking at it and thinking, ‘I’ll get you one day’.”
Visit www.alisterstocks.co.uk to sponsor him