Saturday, 25 September 2021

Annabelle, 14, conquers cross-Channel challenge

A TEENAGE girl from Fawley swam across the Channel with seven of her friends.

A TEENAGE girl from Fawley swam across the Channel with seven of her friends.

Annabelle Turner, 14, was part of a relay team who crossed from Dover to France last Saturday.

The group set off from Samphire Hoe at 9am and took more than 12 hours to complete their 30-mile journey. They took turns to swim for an hour at a time while the other seven watched from a support boat.

Annabelle, who lives off Icehouse Lane, was fourth in the water and swam three miles.

She also swam the penultimate leg, which finished 500m from land.

The boys and girls, who attend Wellington College near Wokingham, had planned to arrive 20 miles west of Calais at Cap Gris Nez.

However, they were swept off course by strong tides and landed five miles further south at Ambleteuse.

This meant the swim took three hours longer and finished in darkness with water temperatures below 15C.

But in order for their challenge to be recognised by the Channel Swim Association, the teenagers could not wear any thermal clothing. Annabelle said: “It was nerve-wracking because there was a lot of pressure but we supported each other from the boat.

“There were hundreds of jellyfish, which was scary, although we were wearing a cream that prevents you from being stung.

“I was swimming with the tide on the first leg but it was against me for the second leg and that was much harder. I don’t know how far I swam that time. It was also really cold and I got stomach cramps, which wasn’t much fun.

“You don’t really think about what you’re doing when you’re in the middle of it, but when you’ve finished you think ‘wow, I’ve just swum the Channel’.”

As soon as they had finished, the support boat turned around and took them back to England. They arrived at about 1am on Sunday.

Two of the swimmers’ parents followed in the boat alongside a first aider.

The remainder, including Annabelle’s parents Jo and Mark, followed their progress from a hotel in Dover. The vessel was equipped with a satellite tracking device, allowing them to follow the journey on the internet.

Mr Turner said: “We realised there was a problem when they started picking up speed. It was getting dark and they obviously wanted to finish as quickly as possible.

“The penultimate leg was a difficult one and I think Annabelle was gutted that she wasn’t the one to reach the finish.

“She was quite ill because she had swallowed a lot of sea water and I think she had become quite dehydrated as well.

“She drank plenty of water before she went to bed and she was fine in the morning although still a bit groggy.

“To have completed such a challenge at that young age and have it on your CV is pretty incredible. She is very proud.”

The day after their swim, long-distance swimmer Susan Taylor died in her bid to cross the Channel.

She suffered a cardiac arrest one mile from land after attempting the journey by herself.

Mr Turner said: “If it had happened the week before the girls’ swim, I think we would definitely have got cold feet about it.”

The team decided to attempt the challenge after one of their teachers tried and failed to swim the Channel.

They planned it at the start of the year and began weekly training sessions in April.

Mr Turner took Annabelle to Dover every Sunday, where she undertook exercises to get used to swimming in cold water. Before she could take part, she had to prove she could endure temperatures below 16C for at least two hours.

Mr Turner said: “I don’t think Annabelle knows what to do with herself at the moment. After spending so much time building up to the swim, she can’t believe it’s all over.”

The students were raising money for the Hope Cove Lifeboat, an independent rescue service near Salcombe in Devon.

Annabelle’s team-mates picked the charity as they regularly holiday there.

So far they have raised £4,624 towards their £5,000 target.

To donate, visit www.jus tigiving.com/wellingtoncol legechannelswim2013

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