United States Air Force Academy

Go to home page
Public Affairs

Academy Grads Swim English Channel

By Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball, Defense Media Activity-Forward Center Europe

DOVER, England (AFNS) — 

After training for nearly two years, two Air Force Academy grads swam the English Channel Sept. 27 and Oct. 3, from Dover, England to the western coastline of France.

Majs. Simon Ritchie and Casey Bowen, dermatologists at the 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, said they viewed the challenging swim as the culminating point for swimmers across the globe.

“This is the pinnacle event in swimming,” said Bowen, a 2004 Academy graduate. “It’s been a long-term goal and just a personal challenge I have been thinking of for a long time. We scheduled a crossing years ago.”

After waiting a few days for the right conditions, Bowen leaped off the support boat Sept. 26, into the frigid salt water of the English Channel, swam to the Dover shoreline and began his journey to the French coast. Ritchie, a 2003 Academy graduate, started his swim Oct. 3.

Both reached the shoreline of France. Bowen finished in 12 hours, 9 minutes; Ritchie finished in 11 hours, 24 minutes.

The Academy grads said they were confident in their abilities, but aware of the dangers they might face. They tackled Mother Nature’s unpredictable winds, rain, tidal changes, cold waters and the potential to encounter jellyfish.

“I try to lose myself in the moment — you really just have to stay in your own moment,” Ritchie said. “Look at your support boat and put your head back down in the water and keep going.”

Once back in Dover, they spoke with several swimmers from around the world who also completed swims across the channel.

“One of my old coaches from the Air Force Academy emailed me and told me that it was about the endeavor and not about finishing — try to enjoy it,” Bowen said. “So I did.