Intrepid septuagenarians have cold water poured on cross-channel record

LONDON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Six swimmers with a combined age of 449 who completed what they thought a relay record crossing of the English Channel have been denied their moment of glory because of a technicality.

The brave septuagenarians arrived on Sangatte beach near Calais in September having entered the water 21 miles away on England's Kent coast 18 hours earlier in pitch darkness.

Braving choppy conditions described as like swimming in a 'washing machine' the group named One Foot in the Wave, with an average age of 75 years and 187 days, thought they had become the oldest relay team to complete the crossing.

But their incredible achievement has not been ratified by The Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CSPF), because of what was described as an 'illegal changeover'.

Group leader Bob Holman, 78, said he was 'totally gutted' that 'nit-picking and a pedantic attitude' by the overseeing organisation had denied them the record.

According to 76-year-old Linda Ashmore, another of the group, the so-called problem changeover occurred when 80-year-old Robert Lloyd-Evans was about to hand over to Parviz Habibi, the youngest of the group aged 70.

"Robert was swimming a little bit far from the (support) boat, he couldn't really hear us calling him, he had water in his ears and his goggles," Ashmore told the BBC.

"Parviz was due to go in, but the observer couldn't get the other swimmer's attention and wanted to wait to do the changeover."

The confusion meant a delay of around four minutes occurred before the changeover was completed, which according to the group was within the five-minute window in the CSPF rules.

Legal action is now being considered by the group whose effort raised thousands of pounds for an Alzheimer's charity.

"I think they are devoid of common sense," 73-year-old team Kevin Murphy told The Times. "The incident was a delay in a takeover for safety reasons. The pilot and crew told the next swimmer not to go in on safety grounds."

The Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation has been approached by Reuters for comment.

Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Christian Radnedge

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