Youngsters swim on despite injury

June 02 2021

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Determined to raise money for Charlie Waller, six young swimmers are taking on the Channel despite Covid and a broken hand.

Lucy Llewelyn tells the story of the Grimsby Water Rats Junior English Channel Relay Team and their commitment to raising funds for mental health.

When I caught up with an amazing group of young swimmers last year, they were hoping to swim in relay across the English Channel to raise funds for the Trust. Since then, they have faced one obstacle after another, including their youngest member breaking his hand. A year later, their commitment and phenomenal dedication undimmed, they’re set finally to take on this awe-inspiring challenge in June. 

The team is made up of Georgia Barnett, Carter Vernon and George Vickers, from Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Horncastle, and Assistant Head Jo Fieldsend; Alex Parker from King Edward VI Grammar School; and Ross Martinelli from the Grimsby Water Rats, under whose name – the Grimsby Water Rats Junior English Channel Relay Team – they swim.  

Grimsby Water Rats Team in the sea

The whole of the last 12 months’ training has been massively hampered by the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic. Not just their swimming, of course, but for the students, their education too, with many of them meant to be completing GCSEs or A-Levels. At no point, however, did they give up but found creative ways of continuing to train, including for one, swimming in a pool in their garden attached to a bungee cord! 

Now, they are back in the water with a renewed sense of determination. Just in time, unfortunately, for Carter, their youngest member at age 15, to break his right hand. His mum Jay, who is the team’s publicist, says: “We were sitting in A&E and Carter looked at me and said ‘I will still do it!’” 

Even with his cast on, Carter continued to get into cold water, just in his swim shorts, to keep acclimatised and to work on his leg and shoulder strength. Jay says: “Now his cast is off, he’s swimming in open water and determined to complete the two-hour under-15.5 degree water temperature compulsory swim to qualify for the Channel. 

“As you can imagine, we’re overwhelmed by his strength and determination to continue what he started two years ago, raising funds for the incredible Charlie Waller Trust!” 

The team is due to swim the Channel, an hour each in rotation, taking around 14 hours, shortly after 23 June. They’re hoping to raise £5,000 split between the Charlie Waller Trust and a Legacy Adventure Fund for students at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School.

Grimsby Water Rats Team in the sea

It was Captain Matthew Webb, the first recorded person to swim the English Channel, who said: “Nothing great is easy!” and that’s certainly proving to be the case for this team. However, as Jay says: “When we look back on this journey, and the hurdles and obstacles that will have been overcome to get to France, it will make the achievement even greater.” 

To follow their progress and/or to make a donation, please click here

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