Andrew Rees: First deaf man to swim English Channel solo hopes to inspire others

Andrew Rees during his swim across the Channel
Andrew Rees during his landmark swim across the Channel

Andrew Rees, who became the first deaf man to swim the English Channel solo, is urging more people with the disability to challenge themselves.

The Welshman, 48, who represented Great Britain's deaf swimming team in the 1990s, completed the crossing on Sunday, 17 July.

"Don't let your deafness stop you from doing what you really want to do," Rees told BBC Get Inspired.

"There are no barriers if you really want it."

For people who are, like him, profoundly deaf, Rees added: "There are ways to improvise or adapt through technologies and change of attitudes."

Rees' swim had begun smoothly after setting off from Semphire Hoe beach near Dover on Sunday morning.

But unexpected weather hit when he reached French waters and "swimming against 23-knot winds and 2.5m-5m waves which consistently disrupted my strokes" were the most difficult things Rees remembers from his crossing.

After a difficult journey his 15-hour marathon came to an end as he reached Sangatte beach around 11:30 BST.

"I was pleased," Rees recalls the moment he arrived on the other side of the Channel.

"It was a tough swim and when I felt sand going through my fingers, I knew then that I was in France.

"It's hard to describe but for a moment everything came at once. Relief, thoughts of my family, friends and those that are no longer with us. I wondered what they would say about this."

Rees was supported by his boat, the Louise Jane, and raised over £6,000 for the current Great Britain Deaf Swimming team.

The money will help deaf athletes, who receive little or no financial support, compete at the Deaflympics in 2017.

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