THEY were the brave youngsters who took to the Channel to accomplish a sporting challenge they’ll never forget.

Seven teenage girls from the Eastleigh area and one from Southampton took part in a relay swim across the Channel on August 27, 1967.

The girls belonged to the Pirelli General and British Transport Commission Swimming Clubs, and became only the second girls’ team to complete the relay.

The team gathered near the sea, waiting to be told when the tides and time were right to set off.

The girls were then taken by boat to France where the first swimmer ran onto the shore to take her starting position on French soil.

When the signal was given, she ran back into the sea and started swimming.

The team successfully swam the English Channel from Cap Gris Nez in France to Folkestone, Kent, in a time of 13 hours and 57 minutes.

A few hours into the swim, the crew and the girls encountered thick fog which reduced visibility and made keeping the boat on course a struggle.

The drone of the fog siren and obscured passing vessels culminated in an eerie atmosphere. The captain was piloting by compass only, and it became doubtful they would be able to complete the swim.

As well as this, one of the girls, Jan Evans, had to battle through a large patch of seaweed – there was no way of avoiding it.

It was unpleasant, and challenging for the swimmer as well as the people on the boat watching.

Another incident occurred when one of the swimmers, Marilyn Evans, was stung by jellyfish. Whilst those on the boat could see the shoal, she was unaware she was swimming through them.

One of the rules stipulated the swimmer must not touch the boat – which made both the seaweed and jellyfish even more of a challenge.

Towards the end of the swim, the fog began to lift and land was sighted – the final swimmer reaching the shore around 2am.

Swimming in the Channel in complete darkness, apart from the lights shining down from the boat, was an unforgettable experience, and an immense feeling of achievement was felt by everyone involved.

The thick fog had created a longer journey than anticipated, and the previous record could not have been beaten.

Whilst some of the girls belonged to both swimming clubs, the joint coaches were Harold Gould and Alwyn Evans. They had worked tirelessly to organise training swims, both in pools and the sea.

Over the years, the girls, had the benefit of cold water swimming in the Bishopstoke outdoor pool, and also the Pirelli outdoor pool.

Regular training swims took place in the sea at Southsea, Hayling Island, Southbourne and more, and were conducted in all weather conditions.

The group also prepared by taking part in competition swims such as Portsmouth pier to pier, Poole Harbour, Sandown to Shanklin, Hythe-Town Quay, English Championships in Trentham, Welsh Championships in Bala Lake, Wales, and more.

Relays such as Southampton to Lee-on-the-Solent and return, and Ryde to Southampton were also packed into the training schedule.

After the relay success, many of the girls continued to swim, with some going on to teach the sport.

If any of the girls in the photo, or any previous swimmers from 1960s onwards would like to reminisce, please contact Marilyn Thorpe by emailing