Saturday 30 November 2019

My Channel Splasher Fundraising Challenge

Barry shares why he took on the incredible challenge of swimming across the English Channel to raise money for Student Minds
- Barry

On the 5th July, 2019 at 12:24 I climbed up a slipway at Cap Griz Nez in France and fulfilled a long-standing dream to successfully swim across the famous English Channel. It took me 11hrs 52min. After 8 months of hard training both in the pool and in open water, I knew I was ready and was relieved to start from Abbots Cliff at 00:32 where I jumped into the sea under the cover of darkness and undertook one of my greatest swimming challenges to date. I was surprisingly calm and focussed. I knew I was well prepared not only from a training perspective but I had 5 crew members with me and a great pilot whom I knew would do everything they could to help me succeed in my goal and look after me. My crew consisted of my wife Marian, my son Kevin, my brother Pat, and two good friends – Jim and Neil. My pilot was Paul Foreman.

At the start of this journey, I decided that I would like to raise funds for charity. There are so many that do such great work, it was hard to choose. After thinking about it for a while, I decided on two charities – Student Minds in the UK and Jigsaw in Ireland. I choose these as I work with a number of companies who work closely with students and I have attended a number of events where Student Minds talked about the challenges many students face with their mental health - especially students who have come to study in the UK from abroad. I also have university going children myself and my wife works in a university and is acutely aware of the challenges in this area. 

Having selected these charities was a great motivation for me to complete this huge challenge. I wanted to get there as I knew I could raise even more funds having being successful. My crew were fully briefed to remind me of why I was doing this in case I wanted to get out. Luckily it never happened and I was delighted to know that my swim and the money I had raised could make some small difference for students experiencing mental health problems today. I set myself a target to raise €10,000 which I am delighted to report was achieved.   

Many people have asked me what I thought about during the swim. A lot of the time was spent thinking about my stroke rate, how I was physically feeling, trying to conserve as much energy as possible and keeping a close eye on my support boat. I did have time to think about other things like my family, my friends and the huge support I received in preparing for this adventure, too. 

There were many challenges during the swim which I was prepared for. The cold was one. Luckily I had done a lot of open water preparation and it was bearable.  The jellyfish were a different story as I was unlucky enough to endure a lot of stings over the course of an hour. It sort of freaked me out when it started, but after an hour or so, the jelly fish disappeared and I had got through the separation zone and France was in sight… I knew then that I had a chance.

After what seemed an age, I saw that there was a lot of activity on the boat. Finally  I heard the words that every channel swimmer wants to hear – This is your last feed !! This meant that I was within 1km of shore and would hit land soon. Unfortunately, the tide turned within minutes and while I was swimming strong, I was not making progress. 

Luckily my Pilot, Paul Foreman, knew what to do and instructed to swim around the headland that I was heading for and eventually after nearly an hour I broke the tide and finally landed on a small slipway in France. What I didn’t realise was at the top of the slipway was a small restaurant who have a tradition of tracking channel swimmers as they approach land. If one of them lands on the slipway, all the diners and owner of the restaurant come out to congratulate the swimmer, get photos and drink champagne. While it was one of the most incredible experiences I have had, I can confirm that the last thing a channel swimmer needs after climbing out of the water is CHAMPAGNE !! That said I did drink it and we all had a wonderful time. I then said goodbye to my new friends and swam back to the boat and headed back to Dover.

I am proud to say that I have now swam the English Channel and have fulfilled a dream. 

Click here to find out more about fundraising for Student Minds 

I am the Founder & CEO of an Irish software company called TCAS Online ( see ) which has developed a property management platform to help owner/operators manage their Purpose Built Student Housing buildings.

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