Six people have conquered a cross channel swim in aid of the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) and raised more than £10, 500.
The group completed a gruelling 21 miles from Shakespeare Beach, Dover, to Cap Griz Nez, in 10 hours and 34 minutes which makes them the second fastest relay team this year.
Jan Briggs from Hackthorpe, Alex Kirby and Matt Colston from Penrith, Kevin Burns and Scott Creighton from Chester-le-Street and Steve Kirby from Ilkley, made the team “Economy Class to France”.
Team members each spent one hour at a time in the water and were guided through the busiest shipping route in the world by a 43ft motor cruiser, “Anastasia”, and experienced captain, Eddie Spelling, on August 28.
Mrs Briggs came up with the initial idea to tackle the channel and only started open water swimming two years ago. She said: “Conditions couldn’t have been better for the start of the swim and I really enjoyed my first hour in the water but they worsened with two hours to go which coincided with my second hour.
“Swimming alongside the boat was reassuring when the sea was calm, though I struggled at times with the rougher conditions with waves pushing me closer to Anastasia and it got a bit scary as she rose above me on big swells.
“Sea sickness was a big problem for a couple of team members including Alex who unfortunately spent most of the trip below deck, but despite feeling very poorly, he emerged five minutes before his swim and somehow managed his hour, completing a good 1.6 miles.”
Alex Kirby said: “I felt better after a couple of minutes in the water. I would rather have swum the whole distance than get back on the boat.”
Mrs Briggs continued: “It still hasn’t really sunk in what a huge achievement this has been. I couldn’t put my face in the water or do front crawl two years ago, I really don’t know how I came up with the idea and ended up tackling the Everest of swimming. I couldn’t have done it without my amazing team.”
Mrs Brigg’s husband, Ray, funded the entire swim as a present for her 50th birthday and anxiously stayed on shore for the duration as he followed their movements on a live swim tracker. He said: “I’m so proud of her, she has worked so hard over the last two years and despite not being able to train over the winter months due to ill health, she did it.”
Mrs Briggs added: “We wanted to raise money for a local charity and one we might all need at sometime in our lives. With the team being spread over the North of England, GNAAS seemed like the natural choice. They rely entirely on public donations.”
The team are continuing to fundraise for the service and their next event is a charity swim at Ullswater on September 28. This includes a short 500m introduction to open water swimming, a 1.9k half ironman and a 3.8k ironman distance. All of the proceeds will go to GNAAS. To enter, visit www.trihard.co.uk, or to donate, www.justgiving.com/economy-Class-to-France/