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Friday, 31 October 2014

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English Channel swim in aid of Great North Air Ambulance

A team of swimmers are tackling the English Channel to raise funds for the air ambulance.

Jan Briggs, of Penrith, is leading the swim to mark her 50th birthday and has got a team together to help raise money this summer.

“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,” she said.

“Alex Kirby, from Penrith, had been out with me training and between us the plan was born.”

She said they struggled to recruit as many people as they needed from just Cumbria so they widened their search to the north east.

She said because the team were spread across the north of England, they decided on the Great North Air Ambulance as it covered the whole area.

“A reserve team – all from Penrith – will train alongside us in case anyone has to pull out, she added.

“We will be escorted across the Channel by Eddie Spelling with his boat, a 43ft motor cruiser called “Anastasia”,” she said. “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.

“We will each swim for one 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.”

Jan said the team “varied greatly in ability”, “from me who couldn’t do the front crawl or put my face in the water 18 months ago to someone who swam for the national youth team”.

“I’ve learnt to do front crawl and last year while swimming in several competition swims got my time down from 53 minutes for a mile to 35,” she said. “All of the team have been swimming from an early age and now enjoy a variety of water based hobbies.”

The team passed a two hour qualifying swim in September, with one of them suffering from hypothermia after 53 minutes.

“We are trying to train in as many different situations as possible including a night swim in November, known as the Firework 500,” Jan said.

“This year will see us entering as many competition swims as possible using them as team time trials. We are already training in Ullswater in six degree temperatures.”

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