Sir William 'Billy' Edmund Butlin organized and sponsored the Billy Butlin Cross Channel International Swims across the English Channel to great worldwide fanfare between 1953-1959. Sir Butlin was inducted in 1963 in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honour Administrator.
Billy Butlin Cross Channel International Swims
The Daily Mail races and the Billy Butlin Cross Channel International Swims were a series of professional marathon races across the English Channel that brought the best marathon swimmers in the world to the Dover Strait. Sponsored and organized by Billy Butlin of Butlin's Holiday Camps between 1953 and 1959, the races followed the tradition of the Daily Mail races across the English Channel in 1950-1952.
Daily Mail Races
The first Daily Mail race, was held in 1950 and was limited to 20 participants from around the world, sponsored by the London Daily Mail. Hassan Abdel Rehim, a 41-year-old Egyptian won the first race in a then-record of 10 hours and 50 minutes over an international field. The results were as follows:
1. Hassan Abdel Rehim (Egypt) - 10:50
2. Roger Le Morvan (France) 11:02
3. Mareeh Hassan Hamad (Egypt) 12:10
4. Sam Rockett (Great Britain) 14:17
5. Willian Barnie (Scotland) 14:50
6. Eileen Fenton (Great Britain) 15:31 - First woman
7. Jason Zirganos (Greece) 16:19
8. Antonio Abertondo (Argentina) 15:25
9. Jenny Kammersgaard (Denmark) 16:30
DNF: Emile Soron (France), Eduard Mussche (Belgium), David Frank (USA), Willy van Rijsel (Holland), G.B. Brewster (Great Britain), Panagiotis Kamberous (Greece), Elna Andersen (Denmark), Margareth Ann Feather, Fahmmy Attallah (Egypt).
In 1951, another Egyptian, 34-year-old Mareeh Hassan Hamad, won the race in 12 hours 12 minutes by just one minute over Frenchman Roger Le Morvan in another close race. Roger had also placed second in the 1950 Daily Mail race. In addition to France, England and Egypt, swimmers also came from Canada, Argentina, Sweden, Peru, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark. The results were as follows:
1. Mareeh Hassan Hamad (Egypt) 12:12
2. Roger Le Morvan (France) 12:13
3. Hassan Abdel Rehim (Egypt) - 12:25
4. Saied El Arabi (Egypt) 12:42
5. Brenda Fisher (England) 12:42 - First woman
6. Godfrey Chapman (England) 12:56
7. Winnie Roach (Canada) 13:25
8. Enriqueta Duarte (Argentina) 13:26
9. Lars Beril Warle (Sweden) 13:28
10. Raphael Morand (France) 13:45
11. Jenny James (Wales) 13:55
12. Jason Zirganos (Greece) 14:01
13. Jan Van Hemsbergen (Netherlands) 14:03 (br/> 14. Sally Bauer (Sweden) 14:04
15. Antonio Abertondo (Argentina) 14:14
16. William E. (Ned) Barnie (Scotland) 15:01
17. Jenny Kammersgaard (Denmark) 15:38
18. Daniel Carpio (Peru) 23:05
The 1953 race was plagued by inclement weather and poor conditions and had no finishers.
The 1954 race saw Portugal's Baptista Periera win in 12 hours 25 minutes over Egypt's Hamad in 12 hours 49 minutes. The official results were as follows:
1. Baptista Periera (Portugal) 12:25
2. Mareeh Hassan Hamed (Egypt) 12:49
3. Brenda Fisher (England) 14:36 - First woman
4. Jason Zirganos (Greece) 16:23
5. Margaret Ann Dixon [Feather] (England) 16:22
6. Antonio Abertondo (Argentina) 16:54
7. Mohamed El Soussi (Syria) 17:55
Greta Andersen, an Olympic gold and silver medalist in pool swimming, battled the world's best men in many pro marathon swims around the world, and became the only person to win two English Channel races. She won in 1957 and 1958. During the 1957 race, the conditions were terrible and only two swimmers finished with Andersen finishing in 13 hours 53 minutes over England's Ken Wray in 16 hours.
In 1958, the men and women were formally separated into two different races...but that did not stop Greta Andersen from winning overall in 11 hours 1 minute over Pakistan's Brojen Das in 14 hours 52 minutes, England's Ronald Tarr (15:12), France's Raphael Morand (16:22) and Mexico's Ramon Ocana (16:57).