After successfully swimming the English Channel, far west NSW grazier Brendan Cullen is preparing to return, this time as part of a six-member relay team.

Mr Cullen, a Lifeline ambassador who used his swim to raise awareness about men’s mental health, said a second swim was initially not on the cards.

“I do remember getting out of the water and thinking, ‘I’m not ever going to do that again’ [but] we’re a few months on now and you start seeing options you can have a crack at,” Mr Cullen said.

“We’ve been given the opportunity through Mike Gregory — my coach — to do a relay.

“We’ve got a window on September 13 through to September 21 and I believe we’ll have a team of six.”

Brendan Cullen swimming alongside a boat in the English Channel.
Mr Cullen successfully crossed the English Channel solo in July 2022.(Supplied)

Broken Hill local takes the plunge

Mr Cullen’s friend Ben Clavel from Broken Hill will be joining Mr Cullen in the water, along with Armidale-based international ice swimmer Peta Bradley, two people from Adelaide and Mr Clavel’s cousin Claire Atkins, who lives in London.

Mr Clavel, the father of other accomplished local swimmers, said after being involved in Brendan’s initial swim training and using it as part of his own mental health journey, he was looking forward to the challenge.

“When it was mentioned as an idea, I laughed it off a little bit and then thought, ‘Why not, I’m going through my own mental health journey at the moment and Brendan’s been a huge help,'” Mr Clavel said.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to swim with a fella like Brendan and other people in our team will be amazing.”

As part of his preparations for the channel, Mr Clavel has made it his mission to swim at least a couple of kilometres every day, which he will step up over the next few months.

Swimming for extended periods in cold water is something he is still working on, but training over winter in the nearby Menindee Lakes will help him prepare.

A man wearing yellow swimmers walks into an open body of water
Ben Clavel prepares to do some swim training at Lake Cawndilla near Menindee.(Supplied: Ben Clavel)

A different kind of swim

In the relay format, each team member will swim for an hour before rotating to the next. If one can’t finish their hour, the whole team will fail the crossing.

Mr Cullen said he was excited to make his second trip across the channel, noting it would be a very different experience as an observer of his fellow swimmers.

“When you’re swimming it, basically your head’s in the water and that’s it, you don’t see anything,” he said.

“It’ll be different because you’re relying on your team members to get the job done.

“You don’t want to be that person that can’t do it.”

Two men in swimming attire standing on a lake shore in front of a large body of water
Mr Cullen, right, pictured with Mr Clavel, says teamwork and mental endurance will be crucial.(Supplied: Ben Clavel)

Despite this, Mr Cullen is confident each member of the team is willing to put in the work, not least Mr Clavel.

“Once [Ben] found out he was going to be on the team, he decided to pull it on and he’s grown gills,” he said with a laugh.

“Wherever he can get in water, he’s in water. I have no doubt in my mind he’ll do a great job.”