Chasing the dream together: So

Chasing the dream together: South African couple set record times in Channel crossing

Husband and wife team Jeanine and Anthony Pearse recently completed a record-breaking crossing of the English Channel. We caught up with Jeanine to talk about the challenges and highlights.

Chasing the dream together: So

The OED might want to put a pic of Anthony and Jeanine Pearse under the definition of ‘power couple’ in the dictionary.

The pair recently made South African swimming history when Anthony became the second fastest South African to cross the English Channel in 9hr38mins, while Jeanine smashed the South African women’s record by 90 minutes with a time of  10hr30mins.

“We both in fact swam much faster than anything we expected!” said Jeanine. “It was never about breaking any records, but purely for personal fulfillment.”

A hero in the community

Fellow channel swimmer Zani Müller has said that Jeanine is one of her heroes. “A great compliment to be called a hero of Zani’s,” said Jeanine “Cape Town has a very strong and supportive open water swimming community. Their advice, support and interest has been overwhelming and immeasurable.”

All you need is love

Anthony and Jeanine’s marriage played a big part in their achievements from the beginning. “Our journey began with a text message I sent to Anthony in July last year,” explains Jeanine. “I bravely asked his opinion on what he thought about me wanting us both to swim the English Channel. The reply was back within minutes: a definite YES.”

“Anthony’s unwavering belief in me and his constant love, support, patience and encouragement have been unbelievable. He is the biggest blessing of my life and without him none of this would have been possible. To have taken this journey together is the stuff dreams are made of.”

A glance at Anthony’s Twitter feed shows that their commitment to each other is at the core of their swimming ambitions:

Polar swimmer Lewis Pugh tweeted a pic of the Pearses just before the began their swim:

— Lewis Pugh (@LewisPugh) September 23, 2014

After diving in, the pair supported each other while agreeing on a strategy. “As planned we swam together for possibly five minutes before Anthony set off at his own pace,” said Jeanine.

Channel swim 1

The biggest challenge

“Ahead of us lay a 35-40km stretch of wide open grey sea, crossed by two of the worlds busiest shipping lanes,” explained Jeanine. “Oh, how I missed the clean seas of our fairest Cape. This piece of ocean called the English Channel is a mass of angry, nasty, choppy, lumpy and very salty water. Add to all of that some serious tidal current and there you have you challenge.”

Jeanine says that the physical challenges are “nothing at all compared to the mental challenges you face”. “It’s one long mental rollercoaster. There were darker moments and challenges but, all in all, I felt a great sense of calm, quiet and strength.”

“All Channel swimmers have their own stories, but all are similar in one respect – Nothing is impossible with determination,” said Jeanine.

Finishing in French Waters

The last leg of the swim proved toughest for Jeanine. “I opted not to know where I was until five hours and 30 minutes had elapsed. The toughest physical stretch by far was the first shipping lane; it was very busy, dirty and extremely choppy with some awful jellyfish.”

“Only when I saw a sign saying “I smell garlic snails” did I stop, look and orientate myself,” she said. Although the couple had finished 57 minutes apart, the strength of the current meant Jeanine finished almost five kilometers further south, “just beyond the dreaded, feared, and respected Cap Griz Nes.”

“One of the happiest moments of my life was seeing Anthony on board my boat. [He] had been brought onboard to support me on my final stretch.” For the couple, the most important goal was to complete the challenge together. “My dream was always that my journey would end somewhere on the French coast with Anthony at my side. I guess that dreams can in fact come true.”