five friends take on the english channel for havens hospices


11 July 2017

Just after midnight on Friday 30th June five friends set off on an open water swim unlike any other they’d done before.

JBR Run and Tri member Phillip Coombe enlisted the help of four fellow club members; Karen Saltwell, Alistair Bell, Phil Young, Stephanie Milligan to cross the English Channel in a relay swim from Dover to France to raise vital funds for Havens Hospices.

Heading off on the swim at 00:18am, meant not only were the group taking on one of the biggest challenges in the swimming world, but were also swimming in complete darkness, with only a light from their crew boat to guide them through the first few hours of the swim.

The currents proved slightly tricky and actually meant the team ended up swimming around 30-40 miles even though it is only 18 nautical miles across! The team completed the swim in 16hours and 57 minutes despite having to swim much further due to currents.

Phil Coombe, JBR Run and Tri Channel Swim organiser explained

“I started open water swimming around 3 years ago, but really fell in love with it last year where I started taking it semi-seriously, entering races including the Great Pier Swim.

“I also joined a triathlon club – JBR Run and Tri as well as the Chalkwell Redcaps, which is where I got talking to one of the guys who told me about his experience taking part in the Redcap Havens Hospices Chanel Challenge last year.  It inspired me to get a team together from my triathlon club as I thought it would be really cool to do it with them.

“When I took part in the Great Pier Swim for the first time last year; it was the furthest distance I had swum and I was really nervous about it, but it was the perfect introduction to open water swimming and competitive swimming.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys or is interested in getting involved in open water swimming, but hasn’t necessarily ever swum that distance. If you can swim a mile in the pool or sea you can definitely do the 3km. And once you’ve done that well you can do anything! I mean a year after I took part and I can say I have swum the channel!

“I support Havens Hospices because it’s a local charity and I think the work they do is incredibly important and they don’t charge a penny for the care and support they provide and rely heavily on fundraising by their local community and I am part of that which is fantastic.

“For me it doesn’t get better than raising money for a children’s hospice and that’s why I was so keen to take part in the Havens Hospice channel team swim challenge.  For me crossing the channel is the ultimate swimming challenge and the epitome of open water swimming; I would like to do it solo one day.”

If you’ve been inspired why not sign up for the Havens Hospices’ Great Pier Swim and help us continue ‘Making every day count’ for adults, babies, children and young people with life-limiting illnesses across Essex. 

Contact us today on 01702 220350 or email us