PEOPLE who want to see the Statue of Liberty from the water usually take a boat. Julie Bradshaw is different. Next week, Britain's record-breaking English Channel swimmer leaves for New York to compete for the first time in the prestigious Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.
Since Bradshaw will be covering the 28.5-mile route doing butterfly, another record is likely. "No woman has completed the race using that stroke," she said, "but the real advantage is that, because I'll be breathing to the front, I'll get a good look at all the sights. You can't do that with front crawl."
Butterfly is the most demanding stroke, but Bradshaw is capable of swimming butterfly non-stop for 14 hours 18 minutes. That was the time of her solo Channel crossing — about 29 miles — in 2002. "I felt comfortable all the way through," she said, smiling. "I'm lucky, I don't feel the cold."
Mention jellyfish, though, and Bradshaw's blue eyes radiate panic. "The Channel is the busiest shipping lane in the world," she said. "The tankers are huge, but they don't worry me. Neither does the seaweed or the occasional oil slick. Jellyfish, though, are terrifying."
The Channel relay swim last year was especially impressive, then. "It was baking hot," Bradshaw said, "and there were huge amounts of jellyfish. I was hyperventilating but if I'd stopped, it would have been the end of the swim and I didn't want to let anybody down."
Stoically selfless, Bradshaw always swims for charity. In New York the 41-year-old is planning to raise thousands of pounds for the Rainbow Childrens' Trust hospice, whose head office is near Loughborough University, where Bradshaw is a lecturer.
Her sponsor form knows no bounds. "I also work part-time at Leicester Prison teaching P.E. and the inmates are brilliant," Bradshaw said. "Word of the swim got around and rumour has it they're going to have a whip-round for me."
The fundraising has been helped by Endless Pools, which is paying for Bradshaw's transatlantic flight. The American-based company manufactures a counter-current training pool measuring only 8ft by 15ft. "When it was installed in my garden the neighbours joked that I'd be doing a lot of turns," Bradshaw said. "The pool fits into an incredibly small space because it's a swimmer's treadmill. You set the current and that's it. No turns needed."
Most people heat the water, but not Bradshaw. "The colder the better," she said. "Some of the Channel swims I've done have been pretty rough and since we're only allowed to wear a normal costume, you've got to be fairly hardy."
The Manhattan Island swim will be blissfully warm by comparison — an estimated 60F (16C) — but not so in August, when Bradshaw is planning a swim in Scotland. "We're going to do a triple relay crossing of Loch Ness," she said. "Again, this is something that hasn't been done before, so it'll be a lot of fun."
Bradshaw does not rule out another Channel swim, either. She first conquered the blue riband event of marathon swimming — in record time, naturally — when she was 15 and confesses a fascination for that stretch of water. "It's the freedom, as much as the challenge, that inspires me," she said.
What she will get from swimming in the Hudson River is a treasure trove of memories. "I have always wanted to do this race," she said, "so I'm going to savour every moment. I always say to people that where there's a piece of open water, you may well find me there."