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Teen Girls Swimming the English Channel for Charity

6 girls no buoysWhat are you doing during your summer vacation?

For six English girls, summer means training to swim the English Channel to raise money for charity.  They are 6GirlsNoBuoys, and they’ve been practicing in pools to gain strength and in Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake to adjust to cold water but now have to get used to waves and the channels’ strong currents.

Four of the girls, Lily Ouldcott, Millie Elson, Ella Di Peretti and Minnie Fawcett-Tang are from Camden School for Girls and are raising money for science and IT facilities there. Lily dreamed up the scheme, recruited Minnie and it grew from there. Poppy Boswell goes to Forest School and is donating her share of money raised to Motor Neurone Disease research in memory of her grandfather who died of the condition and Hana Sanei is supporting a developing world literacy charity, Room to Read.

Lily’s father, Rob Ouldcott, is an experienced swimmer who  swam the Channel in 2012 and has been coaching the girls. They will swim in a relay, taking an hour in the water each then waiting for their turn to come round again in the support boat. Twenty-one miles of open sea could be a daunting prospect for even the strongest swimmers but for these young girls it’s an exciting challenge.

In an interview with the Telegraph, the girls share their enthusiasm.

Lilly says: ‘In the pool we can all swim for about two hours, then in the Serpentine it’s much colder but it’s still quite easy because it’s flat. In the sea you’re having to deal with all the waves getting into your mouth and stuff, and the salt gets into your throat and can make you feel quite sick. My friend Poppy, she was also there but she can’t be here right now because she’s at a different school, she threw up twice. You carry on. You just let go and keep going.’

When asked why they chose to raise money themselves rather than protest the cuts in the school’s budget Millie says:

And it’s not just that we want to raise money, we want to do something different. Like Lily said it is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s something not many people have done. It should be really difficult, so it’s something good to try.

Rob has been watching the girls develop into a team at their regular weekend training sessions at the Serpentine and remarks how amazingly tough the girls are.

Every one of them turns up every weekend. If they’re not away on family duties, and even if they’ve been horribly stressed on a Saturday they turn up again on a Sunday and do it again.

The Channel is unforgiving and not a place for the faint-hearted so the girls need to understand that one can push beyond the normal limits and recover.

On August 26 2013 the six girls (along with their coach and support team) will set off from Dover, England and swim to France. Every hour, another girl will ready themselves and at the sound of the horn, carry on the relay. Because there are fourteen hours of daylight in August and the swim will take 15-18 hours some of the girls will swim in the dark. The water will be about 16 degrees C (61F), the swimmers will have to deal with swallowing salt water, jellyfish stings and open sea waves. No wetsuits or lane guide ropes (hence the ‘no buoys’ pun in the team name) will be used, in accordance with Channel swimming rules.

When they arrive in France they’ll be among the youngest Channel swimmers, the youngest ever being a solo swimmer of just under 12 years of age, and they’ll have earned every penny of their sponsorship money many times over.

If the above make you feel like a slacker, there’s still time to come up with a productive plan for this summer. Any ideas for doing good?

Pretty Tough Trivia

Gertrude Ederle (October 23, 1905 – November 30, 2003) became the first woman to swim across the English Channel in 1926.

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