The first woman to cross the English Channel (21 miles) was also the fastest person ever. In 1926, the American swimming prodigy, Gertrude Ederle crossed the Channel in 14 hours and 31 mins. She beat the best men’s time and became only the sixth person – and first woman – to swim the Channel. She was only 19. She was also the first to swim using the new front crawl stroke (aka freestyle) and wearing a full face mask (improvised motorbike goggles sealed with paraffin wax).