Tessa, Relay Channel Swimmer 2016 & Boat Leader 2017 - @dolphindiver

Most people who have been involved in Channel swimming will agree that the Channel water gets in your blood and it’s hard to let it go.

Swimming the English Channel

I tried to swim the Channel as part of a relay team in 2014 but a nasty car accident forced me to withdraw. However, the injury I sustained made the work that Aspire do so much more relevant to me.  Andrew recognised I had “unfinished business” so I don’t think he was that surprised to see me back again ready to swim in 2016. I was lucky enough to be part of Team Piranha and we had a great boat leader who was always so happy and supportive.

It took me a while to get my head around the idea that I would have to put as much effort in to training as I would have to put in to fundraising. I was so happy that I hit the minimum sponsorship target fairly early on, which then meant that everything after that was a bonus. I had to remind myself that Aspire gave me this incredible experience because they need the money.

- Tessa swimming the English Channel in 2016

Boat leading

Whilst I really wanted to swim the Channel again this year, I gave it a year off. I still wanted to be involved and do something for Aspire, so Andrew took me on as a boat leader for the summer.

I stood in for another boat leader in June for the Sea Eagles’ relay swim. I was very lucky to have a team who bonded quickly and who are very supportive of each other even though there are some geographic challenges. Working together as a team cannot be underestimated when you are trying to get dressed on Dover beach in May, your fingers don’t work because you are so cold, it’s raining and you still have to get in for another swim. You need each other then and you will need each other on the boat. Whilst you may not be as cold in July/August, you will be exhausted from swimming so hard.

Sea Eagles ready to leave Dover

- Sea Eagles, 2017 Relay Channel Swim Team

The relay swim was the most fun I have had all year – although utterly exhausting! I’d gone straight from a day at work and had been awake for 40 hours by the end but that did not diminish the fun.

I had lots of fun updating Facebook with their position and progress to let their friends and family know how they were getting on. The response was amazing and encouraged fundraising to keep flowing in.

Boat leading is hard. Encouraging swim practice and fundraising activities whilst not being able to answer the toughest question of all, ‘when will we swim?’ My team, the Porpoises, were blown out of the water. They had to wait for months until the window was available. They eventually had the all clear and completed their swim. So lesson for us all is be as flexible as possible before and after your allocated window. You never know what the weather will do to your plans.

Swimming the English Channel was an invaluable experience and I would encourage anyone to take on a boat leader role after they have swum it.

So what's next?

I’m swimming in an Aspire Loch Ness Relay team next year – SKINS! We are busy recruiting at least one more skins team and two more teams (wetsuit optional). So if you’re up for a new challenge get in touch with me or Andrew to talk about it.

Of course, the Channel is still calling me. I hope I am able to boat lead again for one of the Channel swim teams, still unable to answer the question ‘when will we swim?’. Until then, I’ll be #channelwaiting.

Relay Channel Swims

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