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He Did It! Ernie Completes Swim Across English Channel

By Dateline Staff on July 27, 2016 in University

Quick Summary

  • His official time: 11 hours, 49 minutes
  • It’s the chief administrative officer’s third leg in swimming’s ‘triple crown’
  • Fellow UC Davis staffers Steve Kulieke and Karen Charney assist from boat

Updated 11 a.m. July 27: Ernie Hoftyzer began swimming in the dead of night Tuesday (July 26) near Folkestone, England, and wouldn't stop for nearly 12 hours.

The Institute of Transportation Studies chief administrative officer successfully swam the English Channel — the final piece of the so-called Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, which also includes swimming the 20-mile Catalina Channel and the 28-mile circumnavigation of Manhattan Island.

Ernie Hoftyzer dries off after his swim.
Hoftyzer dries off after his swim. (Steve Kulieke/UC Davis)

His English Channel crossing took 11 hours and 49 minutes; straight across, it's 21 miles, but, as you can see from this tracking map, Hoftyzer didn't go straight across, because of strong wind and current.

Fellow UC Davis staffer Steve Kulieke, who provided support from an escort boat, said Hoftyzer faced choppy waters at the start and for the final few hours of his swim. At the end of the marathon, Hoftyzer stepped onto a French beach, then saw out to the escort boat, as required, to complete his feat, Kulieke said.

Through last summer, only 127 swimmers had completed all three swims of the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming.


Updated 9:30 a.m. July 26: Ernie Hoftyzer stepped onto the shore of France today, successfully completing his swim across the English Channel, the Channel Swimming Association confirmed.

Updated 4 p.m. July 25: Ernie Hoftyzer’s channel swim is a “go,” due to start in the wee hours of Tuesday (British time), which means he will be going in the water around 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. today (July 25), Pacific Daylight Time. See his team's posts here. Follow his progress, in real time, here.

Updated 4:35 p.m. July 24: Ernie Hoftyzer says his English Channel swim is a no-go for Monday (July 25), and he has his fingers crossed for Tuesday.


In long-distance swimming, there is no venue more renowned than the English Channel. First successfully swum in 1875, the body of water that separates England from France is considered the sport’s crowning achievement.

Next week, a UC Davis staff member will take on the channel, aiming to add this “jewel” to his distance-swimming accomplishments. If successful, Ernie Hoftyzer will join a celebrated group of “triple crown” swimmers, having previously swum the 20-mile Catalina Channel in 2012 and a 28-mile circumnavigation of Manhattan Island in 2014. Through last summer, only 127 swimmers in the world had completed all three acclaimed marathon swims.

 Ernie Hoftyzer

Hoftyzer, chief administrative officer for the university’s transportation and energy programs housed at UC Davis West Village, will be supported in England by a number of family and friends, including his co-worker Steve Kulieke, senior director of communications for the West Village programs; and Karen Charney, senior director of development at the School of Law. Kulieke and Charney will be two of three crew members aboard the boat Masterpiece, feeding Hoftyzer every 30 minutes and keeping his spirits high as he makes his way from England to France. 

Often called the “busiest shipping lane in the world,” the English Channel is 20.1 miles wide at its narrowest point from the Strait of Dover in England to Cap Griz Nez in France. It also has its own localized weather pattern, making the conditions for a swim crossing unpredictable.

Following traditional English Channel swim rules, Hoftyzer can wear only one swim suit, one swim cap and one set of goggles. Wetsuits are strictly forbidden in the 60- to 62-degree water. To prepare, Hoftyzer has swum more than 500 miles since Jan. 1, building up physical and mental strength and acclimating to colder water in local pools and lakes.

Hoftyzer’s window to swim begins Monday (July 25). He and his team are posting about their adventure here. And you can follow his progress across the channel, in real time, on this tracking map.

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About the author(s)

Dateline Staff Dave Jones, editor, can be reached at 530-752-6556 or Cody Kitaura, news and media relations specialist, can be reached at 530-752-1932 or