Swanage sea swimmers complete incredible challenges

With the weather conditions meant to be at their best for tackling long distance swims, two teams of local swimmers exhibited extraordinary endurance successfully tackling separate gruelling swimming challenges.

The Squid Squad, four Swanage men undertook a record breaking 24 hour open water sea swim relay across Swanage Bay each covering more than 20 km, while Cathy and The Buoys completed a 14 hour relay swim across the Channel to France despite turbulent seas and sickness. All of them have raised thousands of pounds for good causes.

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Team before start
Cathy Lewis

Cathy and the Buoys left to right: Cathy Lewis and Mark Bauer from Swanage, Anthony Walton from Wareham, support crew member, and Neil Ingle from Bournemouth.

Squid squad swim marathon

The Squid Squad left to right: Dan Chambers, Darren Tomes, Paul Green and Oliver Jones

The Squid Squad

Dan Chambers, Darren Tomes, Oliver Jones and Paul Green who made up the Squid Squad started their challenge at 6 pm on Friday 21st July 2023 and successfully finished 24 hours later at 6 pm on the following day.

Swimming throughout the day and night they took it in turns to swim from the Stone Quay across Swanage Bay to Banjo Pier and back again. In the end, each completed an impressive 20 laps, about 20 km over the 24 hour period.

Squid squad swim marathon

The Squid Squad start their endurance challenge from the Stone Quay

Squid Squad swimming challenge
Milly Haines

Keeping going despite the cold

“We battled through”

Speaking after the event, Oliver Jones, who runs a local plumbing and heating business said:

“Swimming the night shift was really good in the end, with a chilled atmosphere. At about 8 am – half way through – I hit the wall and I think the others did too. Then the rain came down in the afternoon and the water became quite choppy but we battled through – it all went to plan really.

“We had great support from the safety team in kayaks who were with us all the way and the RNLI turned up at the end. Even the crew from Swanage Fire Station came along to show us support.

“We’d really like to thank everyone who helped us – from those who cheered us along from the quay to the wives and families and also our physio Billy who was amazing! We were crawling out of the water and she was getting us back in shape ready for another lap.”

Squid squad swim marathon

All the supporters turn out to cheer them on at the start

Squid Squad swimming challenge
Milly Haines

And 24 hours later despite the rain, everyone’s back to cheer them at the finish

“The support has been unbelievable”

Paul Green, a tank commander at Bovington added:

“It was really cold at times in the water but the support has been unbelievable and kept us going. So many people have been cheering us on – lots of people from Swanage but also from Poole and Bournemouth and also family from up north – it’s been really good!”

RNLI at Squid squad swim marathon

The Swanage inshore lifeboat crew came along at the end to accompany the team for their final laps

Dorset Mind at Squid squad swim marathon

Dorset Mind team with Dee Swinton (left) were thrilled at the money raised

“Phenomenal amount of money”

The Squid Squad, at the time they completed the challenge, had raised nearly £8,000, which will be split between the local mental health charity Dorset Mind and the RNLI.

Dee Swinton from Dorset Mind said:

“I really want to say congratulations to the team – it was a real mental test for them and we are very grateful for all the money they’ve raised for Dorset Mind.

“It’s a phenomenal amount of money and will really help towards providing more mental health services locally.”

Squid Squad swimming challenge
Milly Haines

Jubiliant at the end

Squid squad swim marathon

Time to relax at the finish

Cathy and the Buoys

Also cheering the Squid Squad on was Swanage resident Cathy Lewis, who had just completed her own punishing sea swim relay. Along with three other Dorset swimmers, she had crossed the Channel from England to France in 14 hours.

However tt was not all plain sailing for the team Cathy and the Buoys, made up of Cathy Lewis and Mark Bauer from Swanage, Anthony Walton from Wareham and Neil Ingle from Bournemouth.

They set out on a registered Channel boat, Sea Leopard, at 12.25 am on Tuesday 18th July 2023.

The four swimmers had trained hard for the event, but for Cathy it was perhaps the biggest challenge. Unlike her teammates, she came late into swimming – until she was in her mid 40s, not only was she a non-swimmer but she was also terrified of putting her head under the water.

Neil night swimming
Cathy Lewis

Neil Ingle from Bournemouth swimming through the night

Cathy swimming
Cathy Lewis

Cathy Lewis conquered her fear

“We set off in the dead of night”

Cathy said:

“I spent many years fighting to get over this crippling fear, but I knew there was always a chance that the Channel swim would bring it back. And it almost did.

“We set off in the dead of night, in rough sea conditions. When I looked down at the black, churning water – knowing that soon I had to jump in – I felt the onset of a panic attack. I was in tears, saying ‘I can’t do this’.”

It didn’t help that Cathy had been violently sick for the hour before her swim – something she hadn’t anticipated.

“I have never been seasick before, so it was maybe down to nerves and the disorientating effect of the darkness. I managed to throw up over two of my teammates while they were swimming – the third escaped but he was being sick himself!”

Anthony with natural gas tanker
Cathy Lewis

Anthony Walton from Wareham crossing the Channel with a natural gas tanker nearby

“Longest hour of my life”

A tough talk from the team’s trainer had Cathy in the water, and after a slow start, she began getting into her stroke.

“It was the longest hour of my life, being swirled around in big waves, blackness below you and blackness ahead. Only the light of the boat to guide us.

“But every time I felt the panic rising, I thought of my teammates – and my daughters who had been so proud of me. I couldn’t let them all down.”

Mark landing in France
Cathy Lewis

Mark Bauer arriving on the beach at Wissant in France

Mark & Cathy in France
Cathy Lewis

Cathy joins Mark on French soil to relish the team’s success

“Rough start to the swim”

It was Mark Bauer who completed the final stretch, landing on the beach at Wissant in France. Once clearing the water, he raised his arms to signal to the boat, and the swim was officially completed to cheers from French onlookers. It was Mark’s third successful Channel crossing.

He said:

“It was a rough start to the swim – bigger waves and a bigger swell than on my previous Channel relays. Being in the middle of the English Channel in the pitch black, with waves crashing over you is pretty intimidating.

“But once the sun rose and the sea calmed down a little, we were able to relax a bit and enjoy the day.”

The team raised more than £2,300 for Project Planet Earth and more than £1,100 for the Mental Health Foundation.

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