An Epic Challenge
Two years ago, staff member Ashley Christopher decided he wanted to undertake this huge personal challenge and recently succeeded in achieving his dream; becoming the 1750th person to complete a solo swim from Dover to France. Having worked for SSJ for many years, Ashley wanted to collect sponsorship to help us continue to support homeless and vulnerable people in Hampshire and has raised just over £3000, so far.
Swimming in Difficult Conditions
To ensure a solo Channel swim is accepted, there are numerous rules to follow, including not using artificial aids, such as a wetsuit, and not being allowed to have physical contact with another person or your support boat. The difficult weather conditions, coupled with the Channel being one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, can mean the 21-mile distance can end up becoming a much bigger challenge. As the tides moved him sideways up and down the Straits of Dover, Ashley swam from Samphire Hoe, Dover to a beach near Wissant, France, swimming an impressive 22.5 miles in 13 hours and 40 minutes. Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the channel in 1875, took just under 22 hours to complete this feat! Unfortunately, Ashley sustained an injury after ten hours, however, this did not deter him and he continued to swim for almost 4 hours with horrific shoulder strain.
Ashley had been a keen swimmer for years, and took up sea swimming as an interesting way to keep fit and challenge himself. Whilst competing in the Brownsea Island Swim in 2015 he was introduced to Durley Sea Swimmers and after two years of training he has now been able to achieve this life-long dream of swimming the English Channel. To take on a challenge such as this means investing a lot of time and money and Ashley has spent hundreds of hours in practice in Shirley Swimming Pool, who along with Parcel Monkey, New Forest Pet Services and Gallagher mobility aids, also helped sponsor Ashley on his journey, which has ensured that all swimming costs are covered and the sponsorship he has raised can go directly to supporting local homeless people take the steps they need to start rebuilding their lives.
Ashley told us:
“I was confident, even euphoric. I remember feeling emotional thinking how proud my daughters would be when I told them ‘Daddy’s just swam the Channel’. But after ten hours my dream swim turned into a nightmare; with pain shooting down my arm with every stroke.
I went through all the reasons why I am doing this – to raise money, to test myself, to fulfil a life-long ambition, but mainly for my two daughters Sophie and Violet. Even though they are too young to comprehend the challenge and the fear of failure and how hard it is just to keep moving one arm at a time.
So, with my children’s voices in my head spurring me forwards, I plodded on with ever increasing pain and fatigue. Finally, I felt my hand touch the bottom and I stood up and walked up the beach, stretching my arms above my head, shouting!
I am so pleased I was able to achieve my dream, and raise money for SSJ, but it was brutal and far beyond all my expectations.”
Want to hear more?
If you would like to read more about this epic challenge, Ash has written a full account of his day, in his own words, which you can read here, and his support swimmer Jon, has also written a great account of the day here.
Alternatively, if you would like to congratulate Ash and would like to make a donation towards Ashley’s sponsorship, please visit his JustGiving page.
Photo credit: Jon Tribbeck @ColdWetBloke