• Marianne Alvarez

A Brief History of Pedro Rangel Haro

This September Pedro Rangel Haro accomplished an incredible feat and became the first person with a disability to conquer a solo crossing of the English Channel.


Pedro hours into his solo swim

Team Honu Making History, Again


Dear Family, Friends, swimmers of the world, and beloved Honu Team,


I am very excited and very proud to share with you and the world the feat that Pedro Rangel Haro, a Mexican Paralympic swimmer, conquered on September 25/26, 2018. Pedro crossed the English Channel in 15 hours and 48 minutes in very adverse conditions. Making world history in being the first disabled swimmer to conquer "the Mount Everest of the open water." Swimmers from all over the world know the great challenge that the Channel is. The first man in the history of the Channel was the British Captain Matthew Webb, who conquered the crossing on his third attempt performing it in 21 hours and 45 minutes in 1875.


To this day, fewer people have conquered the English Channel than Mount Everest. Being part of the Triple Crown and the Seven Seas is a challenge that swimmers from all over the world year after year prepare themselves hard to achieve in a very personal way the achievement of the most difficult crossing of our planet. Less than 1570 solo crosses have been officially recognized; the most recent 500 solos have been made in the last ten years. Today Pedro is attached to this honourable list of successful crosses and is the first Paralympic swimmer* in history to conquer this gruelling swim (*with double amputation of lower extremities from the hip down).



What Makes the Channel So Difficult?


I will point out the factors that make this crossing be considered of the highest difficulty:


• Geographically: The distance is 32 km in a straight line, Pedro swam more than 50 km

• The Channel has a short season when the crossing windows are open, from the end of June to the beginning of October and the conditions are never the same

• Temperature: The records mark average temperatures of 15oC, there are years that the crossing are done at 12oC and in recent years the cold waters have reached up to 18oC

• The currents that converge from the North Sea with the Atlantic Ocean in the strait between England and France funnel, known as the English Channel, make this crossing to be considered the most difficult

• The combination of currents, tide changes, winds, the temperature of the water and the environment, and unexpected waves are factors that add to the crossing’s difficulty

• The Channel is now the busiest commercial crossing, years ago the SWIMMER had preference, nowadays the crossing can only be started in England swimming towards the French coast with very strict maritime rules by the French authorities

• The Channel Swimming Association was formed in 1927. In 2000 it branched into two associations, the CS & PF and the CSA. These are the only two official bodies that certify the crossings and do so under very strict rules

• The Channel is recognized as an extreme sport and demands high physical conditioning


All crossing to be recognized must meet certain requirements:

-Medical certificate

-Proof of six hour swim in cold water <15oC

-Registration and membership with one of the two Associations

-Contract with one of the registered pilots


• The day of the crossing the boat has the registered pilot, two crew members with specific rescue training and an observer who is the judge who records the entire crossing in detail

• The swimmer who wants to officially cross the English Channel must adhere to the following rules:

-A pair of goggles

-A silicone or latex cap (neoprene cap is not allowed)

-Speedo-style swimsuit (brief-style or long suit is not allowed). It must be nylon or lycra (neoprene or material that maintains heat is not allowed)


• Only Vaseline (or baby cream) is allowed to be apply to reduce chafing. It is forbidden to apply any type of fat or animal fat that helps maintain body temperature

• The boat approaches the English shore, the swimmer must jump out of the boat and swim to the mainland. In order to start a legal crossing the swimmer must fully exit the ocean with their whole body above water on the beach, raise their hands and start their swim

• During the entire crossing, the swimmer must not touch the boat, it is permissible to feed and hydrate but under no circumstance should receive assistance. All types of containers/bottles must be thrown towards the swimmer with a long rope or within a net

• If these requirements and rules are not met to the letter, the crossing is not recognized as legal and does not receive certification

• If these requirements and rules are not met to the letter, the crossing is not recognized as legal and does not receive certification



The Legend Rangel


The dream of crossing the English Channel is a unique and very personal challenge. Pedro Rangel Haro dreamed of climbing Mount Everest as a child. When he was eight years old, playing on moving trains, Pedro suffered an accident and was left under the train losing both legs. When he told his father that his dream of climbing Mount Everest was over, his father, Don Pedro Rangel Linares, told him that there was an even greater challenge. That was the first time Pedro learned of the English Channel. Years later Pedro learned to swim and was introduced to Paralympic swimming, attaining great achievements under the tutelage of coach Margarita Hernández and coach Fernando Vélez. His achievements include four medals in four Paralympic Games in the 100 breaststroke SB5 (The only event that he qualifies for on a world level given his classification category of S7-SB5-SM6).


Gold in Beijing 2008

Bronze in Athens 2004

Bronze in London 2012

Bronze in Rio 2016


He has represented Mexico at Worlds achieving the gold medal and gold and silver at Para PanAm Games. Reaching the podium at all competitions, his great achievements have given him the nickname "The Legend Rangel" as well as "The Zorro of Paralympic Swimming.” It is also worth mentioning that Pedro’s crossing was notoriously in the shape of a Z for which Pedro’s crossing, as well as making history and being a significant feat, will be known as “The Channel Crossing of El Zorro.”



Team Honu and the Channel


It is a real honour to be able to work with Pedro and be part of his triumph and the realization of his dream. Preparation for this solo crossing began in 2014 when the Honu Team became the first Paralympic relay in history to cross the Channel with a team comprised of six Paralympic swimmers. In 2015, the Channel did not give us the opportunity to swim or conquer it due to extreme weather conditions, although the swimmers were fully prepared. In 2016, the Honu Team returned to the Channel with two relays which both successfully completed the swim. One of which was awarded for being the fastest six-man relay of the 2016 season. It should be mentioned that this time beat all the able-bodied six-man relay swims that season.


I am a coach dedicated to Paralympic swimming with a huge passion for open water swimming and this is how I came to meet Pedro in 2010. He learned that I had been the first Mexican woman and fifth Mexican swimmer to swim the English Channel in 1985. We bonded immediately. It is since then that the phrase "the Channel is the Channel” exists between us.



Coach Marianne's Story


In 1985, along with my coach and partner Ignacio Alvarez (now my husband), we waited for more than a month to get the opportunity to conquer the Channel. The weather conditions were extreme, the winds did not give a chance to swim and the water temperature was 13 / 12oC. At that time only solo crosses were allowed or relays of six. It was while training in Dover's harbour that six solo swimmer candidates joined forces and decided to swim a relay and not give up our Channel dreams. We named our team “The Friendship Relay” and was formed of a British swimmer, a United Statesian, two Indians, and two Mexicans (Hugo Rodríguez and myself, Marianne Wieland, the only woman on the team). We successfully completed the swim in 9 hours and 45 minutes. Two days later, convincing our pilots, we tried the solo. Hugo Rodriguez, who would successfully cross in 1986 and 1993 and become the fifth Mexican to successfully complete the swim, had to abandon this first solo attempt in 1985 after six hours of swimming. Hugo would later be recognized as the first North American man to conquer both the English Channel and Mount Everest, achievements for which he received the National Sports Award of Mexico.


Mike Oram, known as the "Sea Lion,” has guided more than 500 crossings but 33 years ago when he was my pilot it was only his third year. With little experience and knowledge of the currents of the Channel, my solo began in France with more than an hour of delay for mechanical problems with the boat. It is until recent years that I have come to understand that my crossing was not a failure on my part. 5 hours after my swim I surpassed Hugo who had started at the planned start time. After 10 hours of swimming I could see people on the English beach, my pilot even lifted the traditional Champagne bottle. This is where the phrase "the Channel is the Channel" was born. I swam 11 hours and 30 minutes and I was a few meters away from reaching the Dover

harbour wall and the boat lost sight of me. They nervously searched with a reflector and I kept swimming... disoriented back to France. When I did not respond to them calling out my name they took me out of the water and my big dream ended without being conquered. In 1985 only five solo crosses and three relays (France to England) and thirteen solo and five relays (England to France) were successful. An incomparable figure with the last decade where in each swim window during the end of June to the end of September there are twelve boats with swimmers facing this great challenge every day that the opportunity presents itself. All registered pilots have long waiting lists since the popular English Channel is an open water challenge that arouses great worldwide interest.


It is important to note that the extreme sport of Open Waters is now the fastest growing discipline on the planet.



What's to Come...


Honu Team gives you the most sincere thanks for reading this short story that we hope will soon be read in Pedro Rangel’s memoir. His discipline and dedication to the world of swimming have made him a great winner, The Legend Rangel... who knows no limits.


We want to nominate Pedro Rangel for the National Sports Award of Mexico and the WOWSA 2018 Award.


The Honu Society has huge plans to help people of different abilities improve their health and lifestyle through swimming.


We thank you for sharing this publication.


Sincerely,

Marianne Alvarez

Honu Team Coach + Founder




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