The Original Triple Crown
The Original Triple Crown, first completed in 1972, consists of the English Channel, The North Channel and the Bristol Channel.
The "official" definition of the Original Triple Crown has changed many times over the last few years but now stands as any Bristol Channel swim starting or finishing in Devon (Glenthorne Bay) on the English side AND either starting or finishing on the West side of the River Ogmore, this is Newton Beach Porthcawl, Wales. giving a minimum 16 mile requirement.
Below the list is our explanation on the 16 mile minimum distance and the reasons why you might want to take the long route for your swim!!
Triple Crown Swimmers
Ilfracombe Swansea Bristol Channel (25miles)
Sian Clement (2009 EC, 2016 BC, 2022 NC)
Fergal Somerville (2011 EC, 2013 NC, 2022 BC)
Porthcawl Glenthorne Bristol Channel (16miles)
Kevin Murphy (1968 EC, 1970 NC, 1972 BC)
Ted Keenan (1972 EC, 1973 NC, 1975 BC)
Elaine Burrows Dillane (2019 EC, 2021 NC, 2022 BC)
Sarah Philpott (2020 EC, 2022 BC, 2022 BC)
Clevedon-Penarth-Clevedon Bristol Channel (26miles)
Stephen Price (1987 EC, 2000 NC, 1991/92/94 BC)
dates show first swim
UK 3 Channels
Several swimmers have landed on the heritage coast (between the River Ogmore and Nash Point). To date, only one has also completed the English and the North. Although not meeting the minimum distance for the OTC, we still salute these swimmers for their efforts!
Kamil Resa (2012 EC, 2019 NC, 2020 BC -14.3 miles)
dates show first swim
The '16 Mile' route!
The Original Triple Crown was first drempt up by Kevin Murphy and Ted Keenan back in the 70's. They decided to swim Glenthorne to Porthcawl, a route approximately 16miles in a straight line. Gelnthorne was chosen because it was just inside Devon, we dont know why Porthcawl was chosen....but due to the shape of the Welsh coast and the speed of the tide in the Bristol Channel, its an INCREDIBLY hard place to land! Made even harder by the swimmer (and pilot boat) running up the Welsh coast TOWARDS Tuska rock on a falling tide! Further to this, both swam to BLDSA rules...which mean you need to start and finish within half a mile (800m) of the designated point (this would be the west side of the Ogmore River to be called Porthcawl). This is a huge task when the tide can run at 4 knots and is running at 45 degrees to your swim route! Both swimmers completed the triple back in the 70's. The definition was set (MSF) that the triple crown would be EC, NC and BC with a minimum swimmable distance of 16miles. No-one else made a claim for the triple until the year 2000...
In the year 2000, Stephen Price swam the North Channel to complete a triple, having previously swam the EC in 1987, in 1991 he swam Penarth-Clevdon, in 1992 Clevedon-Penarth and in 1994 Clevedon-Penarth-Clevdon. Despite completing a route of 40km+, 25miles, this was not initially recognised as a triple crown swim due to the minimum swimmable distance being 12 miles (one way). Harsh...but fair? Maybe!
Fast forward to 2020, Turkish Swimmer Kamil Resa came to Wales to attempt to revive the Original Triple, attempting the swim from Glenthorne to Porthcawl (but this time to MSF rules). No-one had swum this route for nearly 50 years and no-one in this new era had figured out the currents. Kamil swam heroically for ten hours plus and was well within sight of Porthcawl...when the tide turned and began sweeping him down towards Nash point at 3 knots. He eventually landed the swim near to Monk Nash, approximately 5 miles from Porthcawl. To conventional 'Channel Swimming rules' this counts. In the English Channel you aim for Cap Gris Nez, if you "miss", you swim longer....and that, in a nutshell, is the dilema; to swim Glenthorne to Porthcawl, you are NOT trying to swim the shortest distance.
The shortest distance across from Glenthorne is Nash point, a tidal assisted swim, very similar in distance to Penarth-Clevedon! To MSF rules however, this would "count" as there is no requirement to finish within 800m. Have you still swum the Bristol Channel, definitely!! Have you swum Glenthorne to Porthcawl? No. The map on the left shows the two direct distances and also the rough direction of the current on each side of the channel.
A swim from Glenthorne to Nash point or to Monk Nash or Southern Down is shorter than the swim Kevin and Ted swam back in the 70's, arguably its easier and will be quicker. It is almost 8 miles from Nash Point to Porthcawl! Those two swims are not comparable....and that is the whole point of MSF rules! On the flip side of the coin, a triple crown by the Swansea-ilfracombe route would be harder again and could never really challenge for the fastest triple, simple because the route is sooo much longer; is that fair?! Again, not really! *Edit - Sian
Clement proved us all wrong here by taking the fastest overall time DESPITE swimming 9 miles further acorss the BC!
EC and NC are fairly straightforward as you are tring to swim the shortest distance. The BC is very different that if you want to swim the historic swims, you are not trying to swim the shortest distance, therefore the landing point matters. Kevin and Ted could have got out at Nash point...but they didnt!
The route could be debated for ever and a day, but to simplify our list, we have ordered it by (straight line distance) distance across the Bristol Channel (one way). Top of the list is the swimmer with the furthest BC channel distance. Bottom is the shortest. Simple.