Harrogate swim team face epic Channel challenge and Orca whales - possibly

A brave team of four from Harrogate are taking on one of swimming’s toughest challenges for charity - the English Channel - and one of them is an amputee.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 11:58 am
Vive le swimmers! Harrogate's charity team taking on the English Channel are Jacqui Hargrave, Andrea Stark, Richard Powell and Jonty Warneken.

Among the local causes to benefit if the four open swimmers are successful are Saint Michael's Hospice and the Samaritans.

Set to take place in less than two weeks' time, Jacqui Hargrave, Andrea Stark, Richard Powell and Jonty Warneken, who lost his leg below the knee in a car accident, all need good weather, calm, warm seas and no jellyfish if they are to pull off the challenge.

Harrogate's charity swim team member Jacqui Hargrave.

it's a task which should not be underestimated, one that does not always come off.

The English Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, with 600 tankers and 200 ferries passing through it every day!

Even after months of training, in cold and difficult conditions, which has been both mentally and physically exhausting, The Channel can be a dangerous swim for the most experienced swimmers.

Despite the summer season, anyone attempting the 20-odd-miles swim can still expect to face low water temperatures of 15c to 18c and hypothermia is a genuine threat.

Having ended up heartbroken more than once last year after at having her English Channel swim attempts cancelled, Jacqui Hargrave from Knaresborough is not taking anything for granted this time.

She may know the positive mental health benefits of open water swimming but she also knows the pitfalls.

Jacqui Hargrave said: "There are many challenges involved - and last year, our Channel attempt was postponed three times due to Covid and adverse weather conditions.

"Even if all goes to plan, it’s going to take approximately 14 hours to complete and end up in France."

While Jacqui, a popular blogger on open water swimming, is raising funds for Saint Michael’s Hospice and Andrea Stark from Harrogate the Samaritans, the newest member of the team, Jonty Warneken, who hails from Kirk Deighton, is donating to Open Country. a Yorkshire-based charity with more than 30 years of experience in enabling people with disabilities to access and enjoy the countryside while Richard Powell is raising money for Combat Stress, the UK's leading charity for veterans' mental health.

All being well, The Channel swim is expected to take 15 hours and the rules state each person in a relay team can only swim one hour before another member of the team takes over.

The challenges include:

Large ships

Bad weather

Giant waves




and, just occasionally...

Orca whales!

To put the charity team's efforts in context, only 882 relay teams have ever officially crossed the Channel according since 1875 to the Channel Swimming Association.

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