Frome's English Channel swimmers triumph to raise funds for charities
A TEAM of seven swimmers from Frome Swimming Club have swum the 22 miles across the English Channel and raised £4,300 for charity.
Ailsa Williams and Nicole Poole, both 15, 14-year-olds Tatiana Hooper and Lucy White and adults Sally Hooper, Geoff Hooper and Marcus White completed the swim in 13 hours and nine minutes.
The youngsters are all members of Frome Swimming Club and were inspired to do the swim by last year's Olympic Games.
The swimmers arrived at Dover Marina at 6.15am on Wednesday, September 4 in thick fog. Kat Baker, coach, and Catriona Williams, mother of one of the swimmers, climbed aboard their boat, Optimist. The sea was still and calm as they left the docks.
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The boat came into shore as close as it could, then Ailsa Williams jumped into the water and swam onto Shakespeare Beach, the starting point for the swim.
Family and friends were there to wave her off as she stepped into the sea and started the journey to France. The sea was calm and the sun hidden behind the thick mist as the boat led Ailsa out to sea. She swam for an hour, before Nicole leapt in and took over the swim in 17C waters with a slight swell. After an hour Sally jumped off the boat and took over from Nicole and this hourly take-over continued with Marcus, then Geoff, Tatiana and finally Lucy.
On board the boat was an official observer from the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation who was ensuring the swim was ratified.
One of the swimmers, 48-year-old Sally Hooper, said: "As the day went on the sea got more choppy which made breathing and stroke rate harder. Swimming through one of the world's busiest shipping lanes was also an interesting experience.
"Huge 1,200 foot tankers and container ships whose fog horns we could hear in the distance appeared out of the mist, looking like huge cities. We braced ourselves for their wake which would send us bouncing about in the waves. We were followed and passed by ferries going to and coming from France who had to give way to the swimmers."
The second swim of the day was considerably harder as the sea had picked up a swell. The whole team put in a magnificent effort and as the French mainland came into view the excitement on board grew, as Tatiana got in for her second swim.
Mrs Hooper said: "She swam the swim of her life and covered an amazing distance in her hour and at one point we thought she might land us in France."
It was now dark and France was within reach and lights were attached to the girls. The boat could go in no further, it was up to the girls to land in France.
In the faint distance lights on the swimmers were spotted and then the squeal of excitement as they danced on the French beach.
Mrs Hooper said: "All the months of training in Weymouth with Kat Baker and Tom Watch, in water temperatures of between 7C-19C had paid off, the tough two hour qualifying swim that everyone had to do in temperatures of less than 16C all without wet suits and the hours spent swimming round Vobster Quay had all paid off."
The team have been raising money for Dorothy House and Positive Action on Cancer and donations can be made by going to www.virginmoneygiving. com and type in Frome to France in sponsor a friend.