Training intensifies for channel swim friends


A team assembled from around the North will embark on a gruelling 21 mile swim across the English Channel this summer.

A team assembled from around the North will embark on a gruelling 21 mile swim across the English Channel this summer. Jan Briggs, who had the idea in the first place, explains where the idea came from and how preparations are going.

Team: Jan Briggs, Alex and Steve Kirby, Matt Colston, Kevin Burns and Scott Creighton.

Support crew: Angela Murray and Danny Dobson.

Jan said: “After swimming the Great North Swim 18 months ago doing breast stroke I had the mad idea to then tackle the English Channel for my 50th birthday this year. Alex (Penrith) had been out with me training and between us the plan was born. Cumbrian victims were hard to pin down so we spread the net further afield with Alex’s brother Steve from Ilkley coming on board, a chance meeting with Kevin at the Great North Swim in June resulted in him and his training partner Scott, both from Chester-le-Street, County Durham, joining us and Matt completed the team. Because the team are spread all over the north on England we decided GNAAS would be a fitting local recipient for our fund raising efforts and one we all may need  one day.

“Finbarr, Hamish and Darren (all Penrith area) are our reserve swimmers and will train alongside us to be on hand in case anyone has to pull out.

“We will be escorted across the Channel by pilot Eddie Spelling with his boat a 43ft motor cruiser called “Anastasia”. It’s his job to decide when weather conditions are optimum to swim and to safely guide us through the busiest shipping route in the world.

“The swimmers will swim alongside the boat with carefully executed change overs closely watched by the observer. We will each swim for 1 hour at a time in rotation and will hopefully cross the 21 miles in under 12  hours. No wetsuits allowed only standard swimming costume for me and speedos for the boys.

“Also on board will be an official observer whose job it is to ensure all Channel swimming rules and regulations are adhered to and to record every aspect of our swim. Angela (Carlisle) and Danny (Windermere) will provide the team with everything, from a bucket for sea sickness to first aid for jelly fish stings, they will  help with moral and motivation and keep us all fed and watered.

“We vary greatly in ability from me who couldn’t do front crawl or put my face in the water 18 months ago to Kevin who swam for the national youth team. I’ve learnt to do front crawl and last year whilst swimming in several competition swims got my time down from 53 minutes for a mile to 35 minutes, still a long way to go with Kevin completing a mile in 23 minutes. All of the team have been swimming from an early age and now enjoy a variety of water based hobbies, Alex and Steve compete in triathlons, Kevin swims for the fire service swim team, Scott is a keen surfer and Matt surfs and sails.

“In September the team  had to do a two hour qualifying swim in cold water (13 degrees). Not without its drama with one team member suffering hypothermia after 53 minutes. Finbarr and Hamish are new recruits and will have to do a two hour swim in April/May. We are trying to train in as many different situations as possible including a night swim in November (11 degrees)  called the Firework 500. This year will see us entering as many competition swims as possible using them as team time trials. We are already training in lake Ullswater (with wetsuits at the moment) in six degree temperatures.

“On Saturday 15th March the team had mandatory medicals, all passed with flying colours. Our thanks to doctors Theo Weston MBE, Elena Saw and Ross Anderson who kindly gave their own time to complete them.”

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