channel swim team 2017

The summer of 2017 marked a monumental time for the Flitwick Dolphins, and more importantly the selected swimmers who participated in swimming across the English Channel. The event has so far raised over £12000 for charities selected by the swimmers, many of these charities being close to the swimmers’ hearts.

The idea for a channel swim was thought of a considerable time ago. Senior swimmer James McFarland recalls: "I remember Tyler (Watson) asking me if I would be part of a Channel Relay team back in June 2016, and I thought ‘Yes, I can do that’. I couldn't imagine what may be involved, but I still thought that it would be a cool thing to do!”

From that point onwards the idea began to grow into a reality, and once the Events & Fundraising Officer Michelle Watson got involved, the plan for a Channel Swim began to take shape. Master swimmer Alistair Shaw expands on how the club continued to show interest in the charity fundraising event, and how he became involved:

"I was approached by (coach) Judy Thompson and Michelle Watson in November 2016 on a rainy Wednesday night training session to see whether I may be interested in taking part in the cross Channel swim. Having only been a member of the club for 10 months at that stage and having never done any open water swimming, I was initially reluctant to commit to taking part. After further consideration, I realised that I hadn’t challenged myself or taken part in any significant Charity Challenge since completing the Great North Run in 2011. I felt it would be a great opportunity to take part in, a great team event and allow me to raise more money for a charity held very close to my heart, Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.”

Great Ormond Street Hospital is only one of the charities that the Channel Swim supported. The other charities selected by the swimmers are: Guide Dogs UK,Save the Children, World Vision, Mind UK and Vasculitis UK.

Many of the swimmers, including Alistair, had not been involved in any form of open water swimming. This is one of the reasons for the intense three months of training that the Flitwick Dolphins Channel Relay Team underwent. The lake at Box End, Kempston was visited by the swimmers in order to get some experience in open water swimming. Head coach, Nigel Halford also runs training sessions there for any other swimmers who wish to experience swimming in a lake. Alistair outlined his feelings about the first time he embarked on open water training:

"My first open water experience was in the lake at Boxend on the 20th May 2017. The water temperature was 14 degrees and consequently, on immediately entering the water, I felt it may be my first AND LAST 5 minutes of open water swimming!
Once I got used to the cold I actually quiet enjoyed the experience of open water swimming and haven’t looked back, despite the fact I was a cold, shivering wreck for about 45 minutes after that first swim.”

The next challenge presented to the Channel Relay swimmers, was completing their two hour assessment swims in the sea at Dover. The first of the group to pass the assessment swim was Club Captain Katie Tompkins. This involved swimming in sub 16 degree water, for the full two hours. James McFarland reflected on his assessment swim, which he completed two weeks after Katie:

"I was still in the middle of my GCSEs but I felt that I needed to go to Dover much earlier than I planned because the sea temperature was rising rapidly. That Saturday morning swim was undoubtedly the hardest part of this whole challenge. It became really difficult. I carried on until about 1 hour 45 minutes and then was ready to give up. Thankfully Isaac was cheering me on from the beach, and Alistair encouraged me by joining me for the last few minutes!

The swimmers spent whole weekends training in Dover, the first of which was the 3rd/4th June. This was a great opportunity for the relay team to gain an understanding for what swimming the channel would involve. In addition to the 15 degree water temperatures proving a struggle for the swimmers, in the words of Alistair Shaw "The boredom was also a big factor to deal with. There are only so many songs you can sing to yourself!”

After all of the training and anticipation for when the channel swim may be taking place, the weather added another obstacle for the whole team to overcome. Rough tides, and stormy conditions meant that the pilot had to continuously postpone the relay. Until spontaneously on the 24th of July, the go ahead was communicated to members of the Relay Team.

The relay took place on the 25th July 2017, not giving the team members much time for preparation!

Senior swimmer Tyler Watson (13) outlines the events of the beginning of the crossing, and his experience while swimming the channel.

"At 8:54 Alistair set off. The swim had started and after that I had a 5 hour wait until my turn to swim. I was worrying a bit, because there was a big chance that I could be sea sick. After 4 hours and 50 minutes I got my stuff ready and went to the side of the boat. At 1:54 I heard the horn and jumped in and swam around Isaac… my hour had started. During my hour I got stung a few times but other than that not much happened. I carried on swimming until Eloisa got in. I felt, as we all still do, really proud and happy. All of the training paid off and we swam to France in 12 Hours and 4 Minutes!”

Eloisa Miller had this to say about her experience…
When I got asked if I wanted to swim the channel I immediately said yes. I really wanted to take on the open water challenge and it would be a really good achievement. At the time I felt that it was going to be easy and that I would be able to last for ages in the sea. I didn’t think about the coldness or how it was going to taste or how long I would have to stay in the water.

My first training session in the sea was nothing like I expected it to be. It was a lot colder than I thought and it was choppy. I still went in and tried. I went around the harbour once and as I was coming round, I felt freezing. I wanted to carry on but I couldn’t. I kept trying, I knew I couldn’t let anyone down. When I didn’t make the 2 hours it made me more determined to try. When I finally made the 2 hours I was so happy, I couldn’t believe what I had done.

My part of the channel was probably the disgusting part but however it was I enjoyed every single part of it. My part was in the middle of the channel so I got most of the jellyfish and part of the sewage. I jumped in straight away. I couldn’t waste any time. It was like an ice cube when I jumped in but that didn’t bother me, what bothered me was the jellyfish. Now, in training I hadn’t been stung and I didn’t know what it was like. When you look down you see a dark blue turning into black so you couldn’t see what was underneath you. As soon as it had started I saw a small brown jellyfish underneath me. It scared the life out of me and I went faster. Suddenly, I started seeing more and more. They were all different colours and sizes. Some were brown, white, and purple while others were black blue and clear. They were scary at first but then they became cool to look at with so many of them. I tried to dodge them but it didn’t quite work. Then I swam into a massive one and found out I didn’t like jellyfish anymore. Sadly, my swim came to an end and I had to climb out onto the boat.

When we finished the channel we were so happy and thankful that no one had messed it up. I felt so special and now I can say that I have taken on the ultimate open water challenge – swimming the channel. It was a really good achievement to have accomplished and I will remember this for the rest of my life. Although I only swam for 1 hour I`m glad that I was in a team with really good swimmers. I wonder what my next big challenge will be.

Another relay swimmer, Isaac Moon said that he really enjoyed the swim. "The most challenging bit was finishing on the rocks in France as we had to clamber out and stand behind the water line which was very rocky. I found the training that we did helped me to get used to the cold water, salt water and jellyfish. I am proud of my achievement and the money raised - I would like to raise more so we can help the charities. I'm now looking for my next challenge with the team!”

Club Captain, Katie Tompkins described the challenge as "amazing” and something that she would consider taking part in again. These sentiments were echoed by Emma Boost who reiterated that it was a real challenge but something that she thoroughly enjoyed.

One of the team members was unable to take part in the relay team in July and so Chloe’s attempt at the English Channel Relay team swim was set to take place in September. This was a very different challenge for Chloe because she had not trained with the rest of her relay team, and she had not even met them before she arrived at Dover in the early hours of the morning on the 26th of September. The pilot boat was called "Optimist” which is a fitting name for someone taking on this challenge with an unknown team. Chloe’s describes her experience:-

3 Jellyfish and a Dolphin
Jenny started our swim from the beach at 2:41am Katy was next to go and then it was me followed by Sam. I got my lights attached and my grease on. The reality of the swim became real when I jumped into the cold dark water with only the light on the boat to guide me. After hesitation, I found my stroke and continued for the hour. What seemed like no time at all I was getting ready for my second swim which was a lot more enjoyable as the sun was rising and I was able to see in front of me. My third swim was a lot harder as unfortunately I injured my shoulder, but with a lot of determination and support from my team and crew I got through the waves. Once I got out of the sea I was greeted with a cup of tea made by Paul the pilot. The tides started to turn and the waves where against us. A couple of hours of holding on to our bags and thanks to incredible swims from Jenny and Katy it was finally time for the last swim of the relay swam by me. I swam for about 20 minutes with the boat next to me and then I was told to carry on alone and just head for the shore. Swimming alone with no one around me was daunting at first but France was in sight and I knew my team wouldn't be too far behind. Being able to land the swim was an incredible feeling but being able to finish on a French beach was even more special. A feeling I will never forget”.

As the swimmers have neatly summarised, their channel swim was a huge success. The club would like to thank Michelle Watson for putting in such great effort, and to all of the coaches for giving up their time during training. Lastly, a huge well done and congratulations must go to the swimmers for taking part in something that is an impossibility for many people!

The channel swim team for the two separate and successful attempts consisted of: Tyler Watson, Alistair Shaw, Katie Tompkins, Eloisa Miller, Chloe Ford, Isaac Moon, James McFarland and Emma Boost, with Nigel Halford and Ian Murray as their coaches and Demi Narang taking part in the training .

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Listen to some our swimmers on Three Counties Radio 21-07-17 (approx 1hr 18mins in)

Listen to our Head Coach Nigel Halford on Three Counties Radio on 27-03-17

On 22nd March our swimmers took part in a Sponsored Swim, full details and photos can be viewed here

Easter Bunny Winner

Keep checking our news feed for various fundraising events leading up to the challenge, we would be very grateful if you could sponsor us at our Virgin Money Giving Page


Channel Swim Blog

Below is our blog that we updated in the run up to our channel swims

16th May 2017


What a great night spent with some pretty amazing young people... Flitwick Dolphins Channel Swim Team will be braving The English Channel in July to raise money for seven charity's including Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. The average age of the team (minus Alistair team manager) is only 16 years old so wish them all a massive Swimzi good luck and safe swimming.

Chris Hartley
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28th April 2016

We have decided to write a blog so that everyone who is supporting and sponsoring us, are able to see what fundraising and training we are doing in the lead up to the channel swim. We wanted everyone to feel a part of the team in some way, without making them jump into freezing cold water, and swim with us!!

So, it’s been a busy couple of months for everyone involved in the channel swim, we’ve been organising events such as a sponsored swim, and we all managed to swim for 2 hours nonstop. Amazing, considering how chatty we all are, perhaps some more than others.

We also did an Easter raffle, we were kindly donated prizes and cakes to sell to help us raise money, and I think everyone in Flitwick and Ampthill has a knitted bunny or chick. Oh, and giant bunny which we had to guess the name of, his name is now Peanut and I believe he is doing well in his new home. We have all been training hard in the pool with the support of our head coach and best friend Nigel, we shall continue this training to the lead up to the big day.

That’s all for now will, keep you updated on all the antics going on at Flitwick Dolphins Channel Relay Headquarters

Blog correspondent , Chloe Ford

22nd March 2017

On Wednesday, 22 March 2017 the Flitwick Dolphins swimming club set themselves a challenge!!

In July of this year some of the clubs swimmers will be taking part in an English channel relay swim endeavour. Not only will the swimmers be doing it for the sheer challenge of getting across the channel but they are raising sums for some very worthwhile charities .  

Charities that they are supporting are Great Ormand Street Hospital, Save The Children, Mind, World-vision and Vascultis.

In support of the swimmers taking part in the Channel swim challenge, the club organised a sponsored swim event to include all the club's swimmers and that took place within the usual training schedule on a Wednesday at the Flitwick leisure centre . The challenge that was set was for each of the squads to swim the distance of the channel but within the swimming pool.

The English Channel is 21 miles across which equates to 33,797 metres or put another way is 1352 lengths of a 25 metre swimming pool.

First to embark upon the challenge where the club's youngest squad consisting of the Flippers and the Fins. With the senior swimmers volunteering to lap count them , the swimming began at 7pm . Between them, the swimmers swam 38,950 metres which is an astonishing achievement for this young group.

Next up at 8 pm where swimmers from a B and C squad. Another amazing achievement with a collective swim of 37,200 metres.

At 9 o'clock in the evening it was then the turn of the A squad (within this squad includes the club's Sprint squad and members of CBSS squad, these are the clubs senior swimmers ) along with the Masters squad who are the clubs adult swimmers.

Collectively in the hour between 9 PM and 10 PM this group swam an amazing total of over 115,000 metres !!

Not to be out done by their swimmers, the parents were for the duration between 7 pm and 9 PM in the evening swimming their own lengths and amassed an incredible 40,150 metre of swimming.

The combined total of all the squads and parents meterage in the pool equated to in excess of 230,000 metres . That figure equates to approximately 144 miles which is actually just under seven times across the English Channel, or there and back just under three times!!

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