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'56-year-old British woman slowest to swim English Channel'

world Updated: Jul 28, 2010 13:51 IST

A 56-year-old British woman is said to have broken the world record as the slowest person to swim the English Channel.

Jackie Cobell took an epic 28 hours 44 minutes; she was forced off course so much, she ended up swimming 64 miles -- three times further than the 21-mile direct route from Dover to Calais, the 'Daily Express' reported.

The previous slow record of 26 hours 50 minutes was set by Henry Sullivan in 1923.

"I had no idea of the time. I kept seeing the beach and thinking I was nearly there, then the tide would sweep me along the coast. My arms were packing up, one of my muscles in my arms ripped, but I was determined to make it," she said.

Cobell, from Tonbridge, Kent, was 20 stone and suffering from high blood pressure when she started training for the swim five years ago.

She got fitter, but didn't lose weight. Since having a gastric band fitted in November, she has shed eight stone. It has its downsides, though. "I never used to get cold and I'm not as buoyant," she said.

Cobell, who was called "Flipper" as a child because she loved the water, had conquered Lake Windermere in eight hours. "I thought I would do the Channel in about 18 hours. When I reached the shore, my body was black and blue from the waves pounding me," she said.

Cobell, who has two daughters, Sarah, 32, and Victoria, 30, was watched by her husband David, 59, in a support boat. He said: "I wasn't ready for the amount of energy and persistence she had."