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Minute on the Clock: Chris Penn

17 August 2015 by

Chris Penn, managing director of the 258-bedroom Ace hotel in London's Shoreditch, is swimming the 21 miles of the English Channel to raise money for industry charity Hospitality Action. He talks to Amanda Afiya about mind over matter, the challenges of cold water and a novel use for goose fat

Why are you doing it?

Throughout my life I have pursued challenges, and the English Channel seemed the ultimate challenge.

How have you trained for it?

I have been training since September last year. It has been a mix of seriously long pool swims in the winter and, more recently, lake and sea swimming. This has been coupled with cold water acclimatisation (cold showers), eating lots to encourage some ‘natural insulation' (fat!), and then open-water swimming as much as possible.

What lessons have you learned from the exercise?

I have always truly believed that your body can achieve what your mind believes. I have definitely found this throughout my training,as I have already achieved milestones that I would have written off as impossible just one year ago. I think the swim itself will continue to build a respect for nature in my mind.

What time are you hoping to do it in?

I hope to get to France! That is and has to remain my only goal. It will take about 15 to 16 hours.

What do you wear?

I wear a rather fetching pair of budgie smugglers, a pair of goggles and a swimming hat. I will have some goose fat smeared on me to stop chafing, too. Oh, and also lights attached to my goggles and trunks so that I can be seen. Nothing else is allowed!

What support will you have?

I have a boat with a support crew following me. They can throw me food and drink, but they can't touch me and I can't touch them. There is a Channel swimming observer on the boat to make sure I do not break any rules.

How often can you stop and eat and drink?

I can eat and drink whenever I like, but it massively slows me down. I have to tread water and I cannot have help, so you end up getting pulled out of the right path by the current. The best thing is to drink and eat as little and as quickly as possible.

What happens when you get to France?

Most people try to stand up and promptly fall over. You try to cheer and get a souvenir, maybe a pebble. Then you have to jump back in and swim to the boat as you haven't cleared customs.

Why should people support Hospitality Action?

It is there for anybody who has had a turn for the worse, so we should help Hospitality Action provide this support. Ultimately, we may need it some time in the future, so let's help it to help us.

What's your next challenge?

To try to get through a year without a major challenge!

Donations to this Hospitality Action challenge can be madeby visiting www.justgiving.com/Christopher-Penn or by texting CPCS99 £1 to 70070 to donate £1.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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