We are a group of 6 young swimmers from Street & District Swimming Club, raising funds to attempt a Channel Relay Swim in aid of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Who we are
Our original team is Sophie Chillingworth, Matt Chillingworth, Bobby Clark, Jessica Hudson, Charlie Cook & Katie Waters.
(UPDATE - Charlie has sadly sustained a nasty hand injury one week before the crossing (WISHING YOU THE BEST CHARLIE!), and we have been lucky to draft in Robyn Dyson (15) from Sheffield at the last minute to make up our sixth swimming Ichthyosaur - HUGE THANKS ROBYN!)
We are all Club Swimmers and train together in Street where we are regular kids competing at County and Regional level. Aged between 13 and 16 we’ve been training in the pool for several years, and in previous years some of us have had a bit of success at the South West Open Water Championships held at Weymouth.
For this one year, the group of us have called ourselves Team Ichthyosaur: - named after the Jurassic marine reptile found in Street which our swimming club has as its logo. The Ichthyosaur was a pretty fearsome ocean hunter… not sure any of us qualify as fearsome – but our training so far has made it clear we’re going to have to be pretty dogged! None of us are superstars in the pool, but we are all tenacious and train hard, trying to be the best that we can be.
Why we are Swimming the Channel
Some of us have dreamed about one day attempting the ultimate swimming challenge. Why? Because it’s there to be conquered. Because it’s really difficult and few people our age would attempt it, but we believe we can. Because we know if we are successful it will be something that will be part of us for ever.
Our coach Kat Percival has lots of experience in Channel swimming and was the reason we got organised to attempt the crossing this year.
What does it involve?
The distance between England and France is 21 miles but taking into account the tides we could be swimming over 30 miles. We’re going to relay across, so an hour each in strict rotation. We might have 2 or 3 swims each.
We're not allowed to wear wetsuits and the sea temperature is likely to be between 13-17 degrees - when we started training in March it was just 8 degrees and even getting in to the water was excruciating .
There are two big challenges: being able to keep going for an hour in cold water is the first one. In fact we have to do a 2-hour qualifying swim to be allowed to take part, because after swimming for an hour we will need to get warm again which takes several hours and then be ready to take our next turn.
And that’s the second challenge – getting back in when you’re still recovering from the last ‘freeze’ is really tough. Sometimes you just feel like you can’t. That’s where being part of the team really helps – we’re all doing it for each other and we’re there for each other – if one person doesn’t complete their next hour at sea when we cross in July then that’s our attempt over.
Our Progress: Cold Water training
In the first 3 months of training in the sea we’ve progressed from 15minutes in the water to just managing an hour. It has seemed like a mountain to climb and it still does, but after breaching the one-hour barrier as a team our belief that we can do this has had a major boost.
At the start of May we went to Dover and in 2 days we carried out 4 sea swims of about half an hour each, swimming with 45+ adult swimmers who were all training to cross the Channel. It was seriously cold – about 10 degrees in the water and 8 degrees out!
Excitingly we met the skipper of the pilot boat who will be taking us across and our observer from the Channel Swim Association who will be monitoring our every move during the swim. And we were lucky to meet and talk with some of the Channel record holders who were really supportive and gave us lots of advice, so that was really inspirational.
Our Progress: Fundraising
In September 2016 we started raising funds to pay for the costs of the swim and our chosen charity 'Make-a-Wish, a charity that helps children with life-threatening conditions to fulfill a lifetime dream. As we all strive to fulfill our own ambitions of swimming the Channel we felt this was an opportunity to help support children far less fortunate than ourselves.
If you don’t know about Make-a-Wish – please take a look at the website https://www.make-a-wish.org.uk – what the Foundation does is really very special and when our crossing is finally done we are all looking forward to being able to hand over a big sum of money knowing that children in very different circumstances from ourselves will benefit from our support.
We have held cake sales, a sponsored spin class, a Christmas Fun Day at our local leisure centre and another at a local park, collecting with buckets in freezing rain for Glastonbury Carnival, and various sponsored events.
Our own lives have already been changed by the experience: training is so tough; often we are so cold when we get out of the water that we can't walk or talk and it takes hours to warm up - at which point we dread it but go back out for another swim; we believe in ourselves more with every week, and we believe in each other - the friendships we are forming as we go through this together feel like they will last the test of time.
Please help. And please spread the word.
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