Hartley extreme swimmer releases charity book

PUBLISHED: 15:32 15 September 2010

Mike Jennings finished second in the over 70's swimming the Hellespont.

Mike Jennings finished second in the over 70's swimming the Hellespont.


As the youngest-ever Royal Marine Commando it is no surprise this keen swimmer is prepared to brave any challenge.

Michael Jennings, 72, of Gorsewood Road, Hartley, is marking the golden anniversary of his first major swim by publishing a book, Believe it…or not!

Aiming to raise £20,000 for the EllenorLions Hospices charity, the book details his madcap experiences in some of the world’s toughest swimming competitions, his service to the country and amusing anecdotes from his life.

He said: “I have always been involved in swimming. Being born in a bath, I suppose it was destiny. My father also swam the Thames and back in 1934, so it is in the family.

“I was never a great sprint swimmer but soon discovered I can do distance and I have never looked back, entering races around the world.

“To mark this milestone I released a book and have already sold 1,400 copies. All the money will go to charity.”

In 1960 the former general store owner became only the 10th person to swim the English Channel in both directions, a feat he repeated in 1966.

Most recently he took part in the 4.7-mile Hellespont Race in Turkey, an iconic ocean swim race to celebrate Turkish Victory Day.

He vowed to take on the five-mile Europe to Asia race to mark 50 years since his first swim on August 30. Conditions were atrocious on the day. 120 of the 563 due to take part failed to start and, out of the 443 who braved the force six winds and a four knot current, only 140 finished. In second place for the over 70s was Mr Jennings, beaten to first by Australian Murray Rose, who won five golds, a silver and bronze at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.

“I couldn’t believe it when he turned up. I would have won if not,” he said.

“The conditions were atrocious, but the bad conditions suit me. It seemed every time I turned my head to breathe, some bugger was throwing a bucket of water in my face, but sharing the podium with Murray Rose? I thought I must be dreaming.”

During his lifelong obsession with water he has taken part in 400 scuba dives, been Kent water polo captain and swam in some of the world’s most dangerous waters.

At the end of the month he is due to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco but before that he will take on the more gentle waters surrounding Lakeside shopping centre in the 5k Swim for Tri as he raises money to fund research in to skin cancer.

He added: “Swimming in these faraway places can be dangerous but on a calm day it is perfectly safe.

“The day before Hellespont the water was like a billiard table. It just happened the next day it was monstrous. Now I hope my experiences will benefit charity.”

To order his book, priced £8.99, send a cheque or postal order to Michael Jennings, Hartley, Kent, DA3 7DH.

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