How to give – by swimming the English Channel
IE’s Italy and Iberia correspondent Chiara Albanese swam the English Channel for charity in July, raising more than £1,500 for the Samaritans.
There has to be a reason to swim the Channel. Or maybe a few. A bottle of Champagne ready for you the end of the swim. More than £1,500 raised for charity. A challenge for your body and for your soul. This could explain why a crazy bunch of friends decided to swim across the Strait of Dover.
The distance is 34km as the crow flies (or as the English say, 21 miles), from Shakespeare Beach in England to Cap Gris-Nez in France, but the swim can be up to double the distance because of the strong tides that have to be overcome.
The relay team that took up the challenge on July 5, one of the first crossings of the year, was called ‘Out to Sea’. Six of us, from England, Italy and the Bahamas. Five boys and a girl: me.
When it comes to the Channel, the challenge is not the distance. It’s maybe the cold. Fourteen degrees of ice-cold salty water, in which you have to jump night or day, taking turns of one hour each. Many ask: “Wetsuit?” No, wetsuits are not allowed. Just Speedo, goggles and a silicone hat. That’s the deal.
Your mind can play games, when you swim in water so open that to the right you have the Americas, and to the left you have Denmark. Somewhere, out there.
Another challenge could be the jellyfish that you see across the chilly water, or the seal following you, or the big tanker that sooner or later will cross your path.
Indeed, the English Channel can get quite busy, as over 600 commercial ships pass through it on an average day.
Then there’s the weather. No matter how ready you are, you may have to wait for days and weeks before ‘Lord Channel’ allows you to cross it.
Waves, winds, currents and tides are part of this game. A game for which you have to train for months. Jumping into 9°C-cold water, when your friends are wearing hats and scarves. Swimming eight times a week to build up your strength. Greasing your body with fat.
We made it in just over 11 hours. Eleven hours of friendship, tea making, shivers and screams. But the Champagne was indeed waiting for us in France. And a copy of Investment Europe to read on the way back.
Readers who would like to donate to the Samaritans via the Out to Sea team can do so at: http://www.justgiving.com/OutToSea