Captain Webb

Posted by SBCSA, 9 September 2015

Justin Hardy’s feature, Captain Webb, which tells the story of the first man to successfully swim the English Channel in 1875, was released in UK cinemas on August 14, 2015.

In 1875 Captain Matthew Webb, a retired merchant seaman, survived fierce winds, treacherous currents and multiple jellyfish stings to swim from Dover to the shores of France, a crossing that took almost 22 hours and spanned 39 miles. The Channel would not be swum again for 36 years, and to this day more people have climbed Everest than successfully swum across the Channel.

Captain Webb’s achievement is all the more remarkable given that it came before sport was a fully developed industry; before the expertise and precautions found today had even been thought of. There were no sports psychologists, isotonic drinks or television contracts. Purpose-built swimming pools were rare, and front crawl was only just beginning to be heard of in the UK.

According to Director Hardy: “Captain Webb is a largely forgotten British hero. He attempted to swim the English Channel when the very idea was seen as beyond impossible, equipped only with his moustache, doses of Brandy and a wire wool swimsuit. We want to tell the story of a classic underdog who fought against all odds to make it to the other side.”

The film stars Warren Brown in the lead role of Captain Webb and Terry Mynott, who plays Captain Paul Boyton, Webb’s American rival at the time who developed a rubber like wetsuit for his own crossing attempt.

©2023 Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association