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UVAC’s Rivard completes English Channel swim

  • Vera Rivard, 16, of Springfield, N.H., successfully swims across the English Channel on Sept. 1, 2020. (Darcie DeBlois-Rivard photograph) Darcie DeBlois-Rivard photograph

  • Vera Rivard, 16, of Springfield, N.H., successfully swims across the English Channel on Sept. 1, 2020. (Darcie DeBlois-Rivard photograph) Darcie DeBlois-Rivard photographs

  • Tracking of Vera Rivard’s 33-mile course across the English Channel shows its circuitous route due to tides and shipping routes. The straight line is the track of the boat as it returned from France after her swim. (Courtesy Darcie DeBlois-Rivard) Courtesy Darcie DeBlois-Rivard

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/2/2020 12:54:00 AM
Modified: 9/5/2020 9:20:54 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — There are faster and more direct ways to cross the English Channel. Then there’s the method Vera Rivard chose on Tuesday.

The 16-year-old long-distance swimmer from Springfield, N.H., and student at Kearsarge Regional High School completed a solo crossing of the Channel, going from Samphire Hoe beach in Dover on England’s southeast coast to Wissant, a beach village on the northern shoreline of France near Calais, arriving at 11:48 p.m. local time late Tuesday night. Rivard, a member of the White River Junction-based Upper Valley Aquatic Club, finished with an unofficial time of 14 hours, 10 minutes.

“That was a swim of a lifetime,” Rivard said afterward in an email sent by her mother, Darcie DeBlois-Rivard. “I have dreamed of this for as long as I can remember. It was better than I could have ever hoped. I am so grateful for this adventure.”

DeBlois-Rivard confirmed her daughter’s completed effort in a Facebook post, as did Peter Reed, the pilot of the support boat Rowena, in an email.

“As a Mom, you dream one day your child will get to follow her dreams,” DeBlois-Rivard posted on her Facebook page prior to her daughter’s start. “As she leaves the beach in England for her English Channel attempt, I will be the proudest parent ever! Not if she finishes, not how fast she swims, but that she was brave enough to start.”

The shortest straight-line route across the Channel, from the English town of Folkestone to Cap Gris-Nez, west-southwest of Calais, covers about 21 miles. Because of tides and marine traffic, Rivard’s trip resembled an exaggerated reverse S curve that lengthened her actual distance traveled to around 33 miles.

Rivard appeared to enjoy favorable weather conditions for her Channel swim. Data from the Rowena, which is based in nearby Folkestone, indicated water temperatures on either side of 64 degrees and waves of slightly more than a foot in height. She swam wearing a pink UVAC cap given to her by her late coach, Dorsi Raynolds, after Raynolds’ cancer diagnosis several years ago.

According to the Channel Swimming Association website, Rivard is just the second American to complete an English Channel swim this year and the first American woman to do so since 28-year-old Californian Melanie Kaplan finished a 13-hour, 6-minute crossing in 2018. The website indicated that 41 individuals or relay teams have made successful crossings this year.

Rivard is trying to finish off the so-called triple crown of long-distance swimming. The teenager did the 20 Bridges of Manhattan Island, a 28½-mile circumnavigation of the New York City borough, in July. The remaining event, a 20-mile Pacific Ocean swim to California’s Santa Catalina Island, has yet to be scheduled.

The English Channel attempt — covering travel, training, room and board along with the rental of the Rowena — is costing the Rivard family around $15,000, about $6,000 of which has been covered through donations and sponsorships. The trip also required a two-week coronavirus quarantine in Dover.

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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