Brackley man’s English Channel challenge for children’s charity

Jean-Michel prepares for his Channel swim
Jean-Michel prepares for his Channel swim

A half-French, half-British Brackley resident will swim between both countries when he attempts to cross the English Channel this month to raise money for charity.

Jean-Michel Dixte, 43, has been practising for his swim for three years and has paid £6,000 of expenses the challenge entails himself, namely the cost to hire a pilot boat, an observer, training sessions and to acquire a swimming certificate.

The English Channel

The English Channel

His mother Christine has acted as one of his fundraisers for the August 16 event because her son has used his spare time outside of work to train for the swim, which could take between 12 to 15 hours and cover a distance of 21 to 40 miles depending on how extreme the tides are on the day.

She said: “The entire family and friends are extremely proud of him. It’s an adventure of a lifetime.

“Most people will never encounter a person who has attempted to swim the Channel.

“Everyone, including his donators from the US, France and the UK, are all very excited for him.”

She added: “He really is very brave as it is challenging to be able to swim the Channel due to the difficult conditions and cold water. I do hope that your readers will encourage him with messages and also donate towards the charity.”

More than 2,120 people have swum the English Channel, which means more people have successfully climbed Mount Everest than have completed the challenge - although the 16C average water temperature is warm compared to the freezing conditions atop the Himalayan peaks. 

Jean-Michel, who is married with two children, has joined a training group in Dover which he visits every available weekend to help him prepare physically and mentally.

The early part of Jean-Michel’s training was often repetitive as he attempted to cover as many miles in the pool as he could to prepare his body for the lengthy crossing.

On several occasions in his blog Jean-Michel - who is no stranger to a challenge having completed an Ironman challenge in Asia and an Escape from Alcatraz triathlon - mentions how important the mental side of the challenge is. 

He wrote: “Swimming in a 25m pool can get very boring, especially when you do 420 lengths like this morning in Watford. Your mind goes numb and you must ensure you can endure the mental exercise of excessive repetition. I count lengths, think about my day, play mental games, answer philosophical debates about life and love.”

Hypothermia is a real risk due to the temperature of the water but also because Jean-Michel is not allowed to wear a wetsuit.

As well as acclimatising to the cold water in training Jean-Michel is adding fat to his body to keep warm, meaning after a dip in an ice bath he gets to dip his spoon into ice cream tubs.

“The cold water is a major obstacle and you need proper insulation, so in order to put on an extra stone or two, I need to eat up to five meals a day,” he wrote in his blog.

“Loads of carbs and proteins but I also like to include some Ben & Jerry’s.”

Jean-Michel is raising money for DM Thomas Foundation for Young People who are dedicated to helping disabled, sick and disadvantaged children to transform their lives.

The foundation works to improve the education and well-being of thousands of young people by providing equipment, training, support and opportunities.

You can donate towards Jean-Michel’s £5,000 target here, and read his blog here.