AN INTREPID company boss has made history by becoming the first person ever to swim all 36-miles of the Manchester Ship Canal.
James Whittaker, development director of Peel Holdings, completed The Ocean Gateway Challenge, to launch a £50 billion regeneration of the canal corridor and Liverpool Estuary areas.
He also raised more than £150,000 for Peel’s chosen charity for 2008, The New Children’s Hospital Appeal.
Mr Whittaker took 16hrs 39mins spread over two days to finish the marathon swim, along the way braving dirty and dank water and avoiding ferries and floating rubbish.
Assembled media, friends and family watched in the pouring rain as he began his swim by sliding down the muddy banks of the River Irwell into the canal at Salford.
With him every inch of the way was his back-up team of swim coach David Quartermain, kayakers Steve Chicken and Andrew Waugh, a doctor and escort swimmers including his brother Mark.
On the first day of swimming he completed 21 miles before taking a well-earned overnight break near Warrington.
On the second day he was back into the 13ºC water to head off toward Ellesmere Port.
Mr Whittaker was still swimming powerfully at 64 strokes per minute and feeding regularly every 45 minutes to keep his energy levels up on a “power-gruel” of semolina, rice drink, fructose and carbohydrate powder that added up to over 1,500kcal per feed.
Many times he had to swim breast stroke around various pieces of junk in the water.
Eventually the course took him through Ince where we spotted rabbits and buzzards.
A member of the back-up team recalled: “In complete contrast, we then passed the industrial complex called Stanlow with its oil slicks and hot water discharges into the Mersey, which caused James a mixture of discomfort and horror.
“Coach David Quartermain jumped in alongside him and commented that it was like swimming in a foreign world.”
At six miles to go James had to leave the water to allow a huge oil tanker to pass.
Arriving at Eastham ferry he was met by a spectator-filled Royal Daffodil and a BBC film crew.
He was also congratulated by Everton and England footballer Phil Neville, patron of the hospital appeal.
Mr Whittaker, said: “I would just like to thank the whole team for their combined efforts in the Ocean Gateway Challenge success.
“The 36-mile swim was tough, but I am elated to have completed it and raised money for the appeal.”