Despite high winds, strong currents and a swell up to three metres, Steve, the self-styled Swimming Gardener, completed his endurance challenge in a little over 10 hours.
He raised more than £13,000 in the process, mostly for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice and a smaller sum for lifeboat charity the RNLI, which gave Steve, from East Preston, sterling service with a support crew every stroke of the way.
One anonymous donor pledged to double his sponsorship for every mile Steve swam, starting at 3.125p but reaching £1,000 if he crossed the 15-mile mark on his return journey at Littlehampton’s East Beach Café.
“I was focused on that bonus for the last three miles, which were worth £875,” he said.
“There was never any question of me not completing the swim. I just had to find a way of doing it.”
Following Steve, 43, all the way in the support boat were his wife Jacqui and daughters Cheyanne and Ashlena, with Littlehampton RNLI’s Ivan Green and fund-raising branch chairman Malcolm Somner and his son Matt.
As well as the jelly beans and bananas, they fed him more sophisticated fare including sports gels and isotonic drinks.
For the first five miles he was also joined by John Mahoney, paddling alongside him in a kayak.
With fatigue and the conditions against him for the last few miles, Steve somehow kept going. “The support on the way was superb,” said Steve, who took up swimming only a few years ago to overcome a serious spinal problem.
He set off from Littlehampton at 6am and it was about 4.20pm when he passed the 15-mile line to complete his epic swim.
It’s estimated that the strong winds and currents added the equivalent of an extra three miles to his journey.
A lifeboat which had escorted him for the last three miles whisked him along the beach and up the harbour to Fisherman’s Quay, where Steve returned to the water to swim the last few yards to the lifeboat station ramp, where a cup of tea and a warm jumper were waiting for him.