I took part in the Aspire Channel Swim each year from 2007 and then in 2010 I saw an advert for Aspire's Relay Channel Swims advertised in H2O magazine (now Outdoor Swimmer) and thought… why not? 

I have fantastic memories of being part of the Aspire Sharks.  Firstly, the training in Brighton and Dover.  The team had a great camaraderie. Three of the team lived up north which limited get-togethers. However, I did swim with Adrian in Malham Tarn, which was a really tough swim (with us both ending up with hypothermia) but I met up regularly with my fellow southerner Neil for training sessions all over London. I also joined a group swimming in the Thames and swam from the source to Oxford before succumbing to illness.

Colin on Dover Beach in a towel in 2012

Secondly, the day of our swim.  Conditions were tough and on our boat, Sea Farer II, there was nowhere to hide.  At the start of my second swim I ended up on the wrong side of the boat and about 100 metres away in very heavy seas.  When I got back close enough I received some forthright feedback from the Pilot, along the lines of ‘if you want to swim to France on your own I’m quite happy to turn the boat around and leave you to it’.  It was a tough day, but we did manage to get back to the White Horse public house to write our names on the ceiling. Although we all wanted to celebrate, we all flaked out and ended up in our sleeping bags back at the campsite, shattered. It wasn’t really until driving home the next day that the enormity of our achievement hit me.  I am not embarrassed to say there was a tear in my eye.

Colin on a boat with the Sharks relay channel swim team

Since 2011 I have taken part in a number of other Aspire open water swims, including swimming the Solent in 2013, and I have volunteered on numerous events.  In addition to the Sharks I was part of the Seahorses team in 2014.   I have been a boat leader for five Aspire teams; the Penguins, Osprey, Sea Wolves, Lions and Funnel Webs and I have been a CSPF Observer with two Aspire teams; the Pelicans and Budgies.  I have crewed for solo Channel swimmers Dirk Gewert and Philip Brice who were fundraising for Aspire.  When Aspire’s Events Manager Andrew was off long-term sick I helped out with the Aspire’s admin for open water swims.  In total I have made 36 Channel crossings in one guise or another.

Colin on Dover beach supervising swims

My 2021 Relay Channel Swim 

I have always wanted to do another crossing and so when Andrew told me there was a boat this year with only five swimmers, I jumped at the chance of swimming and jointly acting as boat leader for the Aspire Terriers. This gave me the chance of celebrating 10 years of Channel swimming with Aspire.  My training was going really well when my local pool was still open, but since the latest lockdown started I have been limited to long walks with the dog.

My advice to others taking on a Relay Channel Swim would be:

  • put as much into the event as you can.
  • train with your teammates.
  • get involved in as many swimming events as you can prior to your swim.
  • throw yourself into the training weekends in Dover.
  • take plenty of seasickness medication.

Colin sitting on Dover Beach in 2017

Fundraising

I was lucky to raise the first £1,000 in a month from JustGiving donations and £250 match funding from QA, one of the organisations I work for.  I haven’t yet done anything other than ask people I know for donations, but I am thinking about a sponsored head shave. My hair hasn’t been cut since the start of the pandemic so there is plenty to shave!  I am also thinking about an online quiz or two and doing a Reading to Hampton swim to raise money for Aspire and the Hampton & Richmond Borough Football Trust, so watch this space.

My biggest advice about fundraising would be to try as many ‘events’ as possible and don’t worry about pestering people - mention your swim and that you're fundraising to everyone you are in contact with.

My association with Aspire goes back a while so I have seen the work they do.  Spinal cord injuries do not discriminate.  The NHS can do a great job of rehabilitation but so much more is needed to adapt after the injury, and I am proud to have contributed.

Colin sitting on boat

Sponsor Colin

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