Crosswords: The English Channel Relay – the final word

Stephen Gould reports back on what’s happened since the challenge was completed including the swim squad being honoured by the Channel Swimming & Pilots Federation earlier this month.

In October 2020, a call went out via LicensingSource asking for swimmers modelled on the ad put out by Ernest Shackleton to recruit members for his south pole expedition in 1914:

“Men and women wanted for hazardous journey, no wages, much expense, bitter cold, long hours of training often in complete darkness, sea sickness inevitable, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

This was the conception of the hugely successful English Channel relay swim race last June for The Light Fund which raised a staggering £288k for some 59 different charities.

On Saturday 4 March 2023, nine of the swim squad of 14 attended the annual dinner and awards ceremony of the Channel Swimming & Pilots Federation (CS&PF) at Folkestone’s Leas Cliff Hall overlooking the English Channel. The CS&PF is one of the two governing bodies for swimming the English Channel along with the Channel Swimming Association (CSA).

This was a gala evening of note with swimmers of pedigree coming from all over the world. The attendance on behalf of The Light Fund was very kindly sponsored by FOCO.

Last year 110 soloists and 135 relays successfully swam across the English Channel and 53 of the former and 69 of the latter – including The Light Fund Optimist and The Light Fund High Hopes – were affiliated to the CS&PF.

At the presentation evening there was a new award in memory of the late Jody Jones, who swam the English Channel in 2019 in between chemotherapy cycles for stage 4 bowel cancer. She was also a wife, a mother and a proud member of the Military Wives Choirs. Jody very sadly passed late last year aged only 44, however, she left an indelible and positive mark on the collective genre of English Channel swimming.

This inaugural and special CS&PF award was given to The Light Fund for the outstanding financial sum raised for charity. Anecdotally at least, this was the second largest sum ever raised from an English Channel swim. Going right back to 1875 when Captain Mathew Webb became the first person to swim the English Channel, only David Walliams in 2006 for Sport Relief has raised more.

In September last year, The Light Fund was also awarded the Channel Relay Swim Team of the Year by Durley Sea Swims – one of only two official English Channel swim training camps.

SwimTeams

Both awards are huge accolades in English Channel swimming terms and this recognition at the highest level is more than a little humbling. The Light Fund will now also go down in the annals of history for English Channel swimming, in terms of both swimming success and also achievement considerably above and beyond what is the increasingly impressive norm.

Once again we would like to thank all of our very kind and generous sponsors whether corporate, friends or family. The aggregate of what we all achieved was something incredibly special for such very worthy causes.

As for the 12 swimmers and their two support crews, the licensing fraternity salutes you in perpetuity. Something quite extraordinary has been achieved and a new benchmark has been set in mammoth fundraising terms for The Light Fund.

Taking inspiration from Alfred Lansing who was on Endurance for Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage:

“On that night of 30 June 2022, the simple act of sailing out of Dover Harbour had carried the swimmers beyond the world of reversals, frustrations and inanities. In the space of a few short minutes, life had been reduced from a highly complex existence, with a thousand petty problems, to one of the barest simplicity in which only one real task remained – the achievement of the goal.”

Congratulations swimmers, congratulations The Light Fund and congratulations to the licensing community the world over. Mission well and truly accomplished.

High Hopes: Stephen Gould, Mark Kingston, Rhys Fleming, Anna Hewitt, Anne Bradford, Simon Gresswell, Terry Lamb.

Optimist: Ian Down, Eoin Wallace, Katie Price, Jason Goonery, Mark Bezodis, Kevin Langstaff, Tasmyn Knight.

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