Passages: English Channel Record Holder Barry Watson Dies at Age 81

Photo Courtesy: NASA, wikiCommons

Barry Watson, who held the record for the fastest English Channel crossing from 1964 to 1977, died this week at age 81.

A native of Crossflatts, West Yorkshire, Watson swam the channel in 1964 at age 26. His time of nine hours, 35 minutes to cover the 21 miles from England to France held for nearly two decades. It was finally taken down in 1977 by Egyptian teenager Nasser Elshazly.

Watson completed three more channel crossings in 1968, 1969 and 1970, among other open-water feats. He continued to swim into his 70s.

Watson was coached by a pair of Olympians, Alistair Brownlee and Jonathan Brownlee, at the Bingley Harriers and Athletics Club. He was inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1973.

“Myself and hundreds are deeply shocked,” Tim Midgley of Bingley Harriers told the Telegraph & Argus. “I’m honoured to have known such a legend. Barry Watson’s legacy lives forever.”

Watson’s open-water exploits within Britain included several championships in Lake Windermere (one-way and two-way), the 1967 Loch Lomond championship and four winning swims from Fleetwood to Morecambe.

“Barry was a legend in Channel swimming,” Channel Swimming Association Mike Read said. “He was a wonderful sportsman, the sort of swimmer who would stop and wait whilst you emptied your leaking goggles and still go on to beat you. …

“A true legend, who will be greatly missed, the Board and all the members send Linda and his family our deepest condolences.”

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Alejandro Matías Lecot

    Un abrazo a su Familia y a sus Amigos, desde Buenos Aires.