dude, a couple of points (again)
first, i didnt look up the distances on the two waterways. I've been on both, learned from both, so badda bing, badda boom.
second, yes the weather is worse on the English channel, but it is by no means of the imagination impassible. Seafaring technology goes back thousands of years, and despite being rather elementary, it could get the job done. I believe the different Islamic groups had some pretty adaquate seafaring abilities, demonstrated by their campaigns in the eastern Mediterranean.
third, my ancestors were no wine drinkin French. they were good ol barbarian savages fuckin with the Romans.
France is sick, no doubt about it, and despite their more recent history, they are very influencial.