North Sea Relays (UK – Europe) (Detailed Information)

 Essential Information

  • Swim start = Ramsgate, England (UK) to Nieuwpoort, Belgium (EU)
  • 10 day window to ensure you get the best weather for your relay
  • 10x persons per relay, 30min swim rotations
  • Minimum swimming pace required by July 2022 - 2.5km p/hr (ideally 3km+)
  • Expected relay time 35 – 40hrs
  • Party in Belgium after! 
  • After the relay and party finishes you have the option to return to England on the boat or continue your travels in Europe
  • 10% of proceeds donated to charity

What's Included

  • Incredible opportunity to learn and practice skills before your future channel solo
  • The opportunity to meet other amazing open water swimmers from across the world
  • Boat & Captain Hire and docking fees
  • ‘Queen of the Channel’ Chloë on your boat for the relay coaching you!
  • Basic sleeping accommodation on the boat 
  • Cooked food during the swim
  • Boat docked in Belgium, after swim conclusion, for 24hrs for the Party 
  • Optional return trip on the boat back to Ramsgate
  • 6x Months online coaching in 2022 with Chloë McCardel as your coach
  • Exclusive Face Book group for the 2022 Relays
  • T-shirt and other merchandise
  • GPS Tracking of relay swim 
  • All administration, observation and ratification fees included
  • Coached swim camp in 2022 prior to your Relay

Learn & Practice Skills for your future Channel Solo

This Relay includes the option for you to be coached by Chloe and practice these essential skills

  • Swimming next to an escort boat in daylight and darkness
  • Swimming next to both sides of an escort boat
  • Feeding, whilst treading water, next to an escort boat
  • Trialling different types of feeds (liquid, solid, warm etc…)
  • Changing ‘gears’ (pace) during your swims
  • Fighting tides, currents, chop, cold water and the elements
  • An overall ‘dress rehearsal’ to help with your confidence and mental preparation for your future solo
  • Getting ‘real time’ feedback from Channel Queen Chloë after your swim rotations

Camps & Online Coaching

  • 2 day cold water training camp in Australia (VIC, May) or the UK (Dover, June) prior to the swim in 2022
  • 6x Months online coaching  from Jan – Jun, 2022 with Chloë McCardel as your coach (you can also ask questions for your own future marathon swims)
    • Online coaching programmes 
    • 2hr monthly coaching call (calls recorded for you to watch after)

Preparation for you Relay

  • You must make yourself available for the full 10 day window
  • You must train for cold water and rough conditions. Expected water temperature between 14 – 16C. The North Sea is renowned for big waves
  • You must meet the minimum pace requirements of 2.5km p/hr (ideally 3km+) for each of your swims. There will be a pace and cold water test for you to complete within 2 months of the Relay
  • Food will be cooked for you during the swim. You are also welcome to bring your own food
  • You will need to pass a standard  medical test similar to those which are used for English or Catalina Channel swims

Head Coach Chloë McCardel

  • Chloë McCardel has completed more English Channel crossings more than any person in history and has been crowned “Queen of the English Channel” by the Channel Swimming Association. She has swum 44x crossings, including 35x singles including 3x double non-stop crossings and a triple non-stop crossing
  • She has the World Record for the longest solo, continuous and unassisted ocean swim in history (124km, 42hrs)
  • Chloë has coached over 150 people to swim the English Channel as solo and relay swimmers since 2014
  • She donated her time to coach and crew for 3x English Channel charity relays who raised over $190,000 for their charity ‘Swim Across America’. 


Where will the Relay start, finish and how far is it?

The Relay will start in Ramsgate, England, and finish in Nieuwpoort, Belgium, or as close to Nieuwpoort as possible. The swim will cross the North Sea, it will not enter the English Channel. A single crossing of the English Channel is 34km, a single crossing between England to Belgium is 92km, therefore, the Relay is nearly equivalent – in distance - to a triple crossing of the English Channel. 

Is the North Sea similar to the English Channel?

Some aspects are similar and some are different. Both are cold water swims, with the North sea course being on average 1-2C colder at any given time then the Dover Straits area of the English Channel. The English Channel is known for rough, unpredictable conditions and so is the North Channel, some consider it, on average, rougher. It is extremely important that you train for cold water swimming and rough conditions as the whole swim will be a cold water swim and it is highly likely some of your Relay will have rough conditions. Both the North Sea and the English Channel are tidal and have international shipping, ferry routes and other vessels moving frequently through them. 

How long are the swim rotations?

The standard swim rotation length is 30min each. The intervals can be shorter or longer if the whole team is happy with a different time interval and it is agreed upon 3 months in advance of the window. Whatever time interval is agreed upon it must be used for every swim in order to apply for official ratification of the swim. 

How many people in a team?

The standard team size is 10 people. The swim course is 9.2km so this equates to an average of 9km of swimming, per person, over the swim course. If you wish to swim with a different number of people you can request this and Chloë will do her best to accommodate you. 

Do I need to supply all the swimmers or will you find team mates for me?

There is only one relay still available for 2022 which is open to all comers. If this fills quickly Chloë is open to the possibility of running an additional relay where you can have your own team and keep it exclusive to your team members. If you are organizing your own team other group sizes can definitely be considered. Please enquiry directly with Chloë. 

Will Chloë swim in our team?

Chloë will be one of the pilots for the ‘all comer’ relay teams. If you are organizing your own team  Chloë can definitely swim with you. Please enquiry directly with Chloë. 

Will the Relay be officially ratified?

All Relays will be swum under the “Standard Relay” rules unless all swimmers in the Relay agree in advance that they wish to swim a “Non-Standard Relay” or a “Training Swim” instead. All Standard and Non-Standard relays will be have the opportunity to be ratified.

Definitions for the Relay Classifications have been informed by the MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming created by the Marathon Swimmers Federation (MSF) which include the sections describing “Special Swim Types”, “Standard Equipment of Marathon Swimming”, and “Non-standard Equipment of Marathon Swimming”. The Relays will not, however, be ratified under the MSF. 

How long will the relay take?

Approximately 35 – 40hrs depending on the conditions and the swimmers pace.

Do we need to go immediately back to England after the relay finishes like English Channel swims?

No, if you prefer to continue your travels you can continue from Belgium as long as the relay finishes Belgium. Relays which are “DNF” (Did Not Finish) go immediately back to England.

Can my partner, family friends meet me at the finish in Belgium?

Yes! They are more than welcome to meet you there and join the celebrations in Belgium after.

How many boat captains will there be?

There will be two boat captains, also known as pilots. As the observer is only able to observe every other decision regarding the swim will be made by the boat's Pilot. The captain’s decisions are final. 

What happens if a team member is unable to complete their rotation or refuses to get in?

As long as there is no medical emergency or other serious incident the relay the Relay will be allowed to continue as a “Training Swim”. If the swim continues under the “Training Swim” rules the Relay will still finish in Belgium. If they Relay is unable to continue under “Training Swim” rules it will be classified as “Did Not Finish” (DNF) and will return directly to Ramsgate, England. 

Will I get seasick?

Did you know that sea sickness is common among Relays in the English Channel? We will discuss how to minimise the risk of this occurring and what to do if it occurs during the monthly coaching calls. 

When will the Monthly Coaching Calls be?

The 2nd Sunday of each month approx. 10am UK time from January  - June 2022.

How much notice will I get before the swim is due to start?

Your pilot will usually have a good estimate about 48hrs before a potential swim start. Final confirmation will only be given at the dock immediately before the swim start. Therefore, it is advised that you stay within an hour of Ramsgate from the day before your window until the swim starts. 

Can I bring my partner, family or friends on the boat trip?

Unfortunately, due to the limited number of people allowed on the vessel there is no extra capacity for anyone not directly involved as a swimmer, observer or crew member. Partner’s and others can definitely meet the swimmer at the finish and join in the celebrations in Belgium

Which stroke should I swim?
Freestyle is the most efficient stroke and it is very strongly suggested you swim this stroke. You can, however, swim any stroke you like as long as you meet the minimum pace commitment in your training test prior to the Relay and during the Relay. If your team wish to have your swim officially recognised as a stroke or strokes other than freestyle you will need to i)give Chloe at least 90 days notice before the window is due to start and ii) at all times throughout their attempt comply with the definition of that stroke as laid down by FINA.

Where should I stay before the swim starts?

It is highly recommended that you stay in Ramsgate or within an hours drive of Ramsgate the evening before your swim. 

When and where are the camps?

The two day cold water training camps are in Australia (VIC, May) or the UK (Dover, June) prior to the swim in 2022. You may attend one. The swim fitness and cold water test will be offered on camp.

What if I cant attend either camp?

That’s ok. You will need to swim fitness and cold water test will be offered on a different camp or have someone observe this. 

What administration do I need to do?

You will be required to produce a medical certificate signed off by your doctor, to sign other documents around the rules of the relay and a contract for your swim Position in the relay, send in a passport photo of yourself. You will not need to liaise with any authorities in regards to the Relay itself. You will need to carry your passport during the Relay on the boat. 

I can’t make one of the Monthly Coaching Calls. Will there be a catch-up option?

Yes, all the calls will be recorded so you can catch them up later. You can also send an email in advance if you have a question you would like answered on the call. 

I would like extra coaching support from Chloë. Is that possible?

Yes, please contact Chloë directly to enquire. 

What’s the minimum age a swimmer needs to be?

16 years old from the first day of the swim window.

Are there any other fees which I need to pay?

This package is ‘all inclusive’. There are no additional fees for observation, ratification, administration, coaching or piloting. 

There are other expenses you will need to budget for which may include, travel to and from Relay start and/or finish, accommodation in Ramsgate, insurances, training costs like bathers, goggles (equipment) and squad coaching or pool entry and any costs associated with the camps. The coaching, water safety and organisation costs are covered on camps all other costs you will need to cover. 

What else should I be aware of?

England – Belgium relays are guided by the principles applied by the International Olympic Committee and UK Sport. Swimmers need to be aware that you may be requested to undertake a drug test at any time up until 24 hours after your swim. For the most up to date list of prohibited drugs swimmers are recommended to go to: World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Their website can be found HERE

What if I can’t travel due to Covid related issues?

Transfer your relay position to a future year if affected by Covid

Swim Rules of Marathon Swimming

“Swim Rules of Marathon Swimming” can be found under has been created by the Marathon Swimmers Federation (MSF) is licensed through the Creative Commons. 

Swim Rules

This section defines standard MSF Swim Rules for a one-way solo swim (Point A to Point B). Standard rules for multi-leg swims, circumnavigation swims, relay swims, and stage swims are defined in the Special Swim Types supplement.

Start & Finish

The swim begins when the swimmer enters the water from a natural shore. If geographic obstacles (e.g., cliffs) prevent the swimmer from clearing the water at the start, the swimmer may begin the swim by touching and releasing from part of the natural shore (e.g., cliff face).

The swim finishes when the swimmer clears the water on a natural shore, beyond which there is no navigable water. If geographic obstacles prevent the swimmer from clearing the water at the finish, the swimmer may finish by touching part of the natural shore.

Physical Contact

The swimmer may not make intentional supportive contact with any vessel, object, or support personnel at any time during the swim.

Standard Equipment

The swimmer may wear a single textile swimsuit with standard coverage, one latex or silicone cap, goggles, ear plugs, nose clips, and may grease the body. The swimmer may not use any additional equipment that benefits speed, buoyancy, endurance, or heat retention.


The swimmer may not intentionally draft behind any escort vessel or support swimmer. The swimmer may swim alongside an escort vessel, but may not intentionally position him or herself inside the vessel’s bow and displacement waves, except while feeding.

Support Swimmers

A support swimmer (or swimmers) may accompany the solo swimmer for a limited duration. Multiple support swims are allowed, but should not occur consecutively. The MSF recommends a maximum of one hour per support swim and a minimum of one hour between support swims.

The support swimmer may not intentionally touch the solo swimmer and must position him or herself at least slightly behind the solo swimmer.

Authority on the Escort Vessel

The observer is responsible for documenting the facts of the swim, interpreting the swim rules, and keeping the official time.

The pilot of the escort vessel (or lead pilot, if there are multiple vessels) is the ultimate authority in all other matters. The pilot may cancel the swim at any time, for any reason, including, but not limited to, concerns for the safety of the swimmer or support personnel. The pilot is responsible for following all relevant local maritime regulations.

Responsible Environmental Stewardship

Everyone involved in the swim attempt - swimmer, observer, support personnel, and escort boat personnel - must treat the environment respectfully and prevent avoidable harm to marine wildlife and ecosystems.

Continuance of the Spirit of Marathon Swimming

If any issue regarding swim conduct arises that the Swim Rules do not clearly address, the swimmer should act - and the observer should judge - in accordance with the spirit of unassisted marathon swimming.

Standard Relay Swims

A swim undertaken by a team of two or more swimmers, swimming in successive turns of a fixed time interval, in a fixed order.

For a relay swim, add the following two rules:

  • Relay teams may choose the number of swimmers (six is standard) and the turn interval (one hour is standard), but the team roster, order, and interval must remain fixed for the duration of the swim.
  • The swimmer exchange takes place in the water, with the new swimmer approaching the previous swimmer from behind. The swimmers are allowed five minutes to complete the exchange, starting from the scheduled exchange time

Standard Equipment

“Standard Equipment of Marathon Swimming” has been created by the Marathon Swimmers Federation (MSF) and is licensed through the Creative Commons. 

  • One swimsuit made of porous, textile material. For males, the suit must not extend below the knee or above the waist. For females it must not extend below the knee, onto the neck, or beyond the shoulder.
  • One bathing cap made of latex or silicone.
  • Goggles, earplugs, and noseclips.
  • Sunscreen and grease.
  • Safety lights for night visibility.
  • Simple timekeeping device (chronometer).
  • Escort boat, pilot, and crew.
  • Nutrition, and equipment to transport it between the boat and swimmer. The swimmer may not be supported or towed by the feed equipment.
  • Paddler(s) and support swimmer(s).
  • Observer(s).
  • The swimmer does not need to declare the use of standard equipment (i.e., it is assumed).
  • Any equipment not specifically listed here is considered nonstandard equipment

Non-Standard Equipment

Varieties of Nonstandard Equipment

Nonstandard equipment is anything not specifically included in the list of standard equipment. While it is impossible to exhaustively list all potential nonstandard equipment, we can categorize them as either (1) performance-enhancing, or (2) non-performance enhancing. Regardless of the performance benefit, swimmers must always declare use of nonstandard equipment in their swim rules and documentation. 

Performance-Enhancing Equipment

Performance-enhancing equipment is defined as nonstandard equipment that benefits the swimmer’s speed, buoyancy, heat retention, or endurance. Swims using such equipment cannot be considered unassisted.

Examples of performance-enhancing equipment include:

  • Equipment that may retain or increase warmth / speed / buoyancy – e.g., wetsuits, neoprene caps, booties, gloves, flippers, paddles, shark cages, pull buoys, wetsuits.
  • Auditory pacing aids - e.g., music players, metronomes or Underwater streamers.
  • Wearable electronic devices that transmit information to the swimmer beyond the time of day and elapsed time.
  • Performance-enhancing drugs on the World Anti-Doping Agency List of Prohibited Substances.

Non-Performance-Enhancing Equipment

Non-performance-enhancing equipment provides no obvious benefit to performance, but nonetheless is not considered part of the standard equipment of marathon swimming. Swims using such equipment may still qualify as unassisted, but the equipment must be specifically declared in the swim rules and documentation.

Examples of non-performance-enhancing equipment include:

  • Swimwear with increased coverage - e.g., stinger suits, rash guards.
  • Wildlife deterrents - e.g., shark shields, shark divers, jellyfish sweepers. Note: harming marine wildlife violates the spirit of marathon swimming.
  • Wearable electronic devices that log data but do not transmit it to the swimmer.