Maine woman defies the odds at 66, sets world record swimming English Channel

Pat Gallant-Charette

WESTBROOK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A 66 year-old woman from Westbrook set a world record over the weekend becoming the oldest woman to successfully swim the English Channel. 

Pat Gallant-Charette is a retired nurse and Maine native from Westbrook. 

On Saturday, June 17, Gallant-Charette swam the 21 cold miles between England and France to set a world record in nothing more than a blue bathing suit from, where else, L.L. Bean and without any professional coaches.   

Gallant-Charette wrote of her journey in her blog and told NEWS CENTER about it. 

Gallant-Charette picked up swimming later in life, when she was 48 years-old. Her son, Tom Charette, was swimming Peaks to Portland in honor of his uncle, and Pat's brother who had died at age 34 from a heart attack. 

Pat told her son that she wished she could  swim Peaks to Portland and he said, "why not mom?"

Pat decided to try.

 

 

She said it took a year for her to qualify for the Peaks swim. While swimming from Peaks, Pat recalls it was a magical swim and even though she was afraid of swimming in open ocean because she's "seen Jaws", she decided she was going to continue. 

Pat has never had a coach. Over the years, she has relied on the help of teenagers to look at her stroke and tell her how she could improve. 

On her solo swim across the English Channel last weekend, she was accompanied by a boat pilot Reg Brickell and her son Tom, who she says never left her side. 

Gallant-Charette faced nausea and vomiting while swimming, cold waters and strong currents that made her swim more difficult. 

Pat says at one point she saw a dorsal fin and thought that she was hallucinating. Her son would confirm after the swim, that she had in fact seen a fin, but it was that of a large sunfish. 

Pat says by mile 14 she was experiencing dehydration. She also had to stop after getting stung by a jellyfish in the face. Pat says she pulled multiple tentacles out of her face, including her lips but kept going because, "it would have hurt if I was swimming or not."

The last mile of her swim took three hours.

Pat finally reached the shore line after 17 hours and 55 minutes swimming.

She walked up the beach near the white cliffs at Cap Blanc completely excited that at 66 years-old she had just won her fifth world record. 

Pat isn't letting this record slow her down any.

She plans to swim Cooks Strait in New Zealand in 2019 as part of her goal to complete marathons swims in all seven major oceans.  

Pat says she is hoping she can find a sponsor. If not she will continue to swim until she runs out of money or has a health issue. 

"Because you grow older, you don’t have to sit on the couch and watch tv all day long. It is important to stay active and if you feel good go for it."  

WATCH: Mainer becomes oldest woman to swim the English Channel

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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