Taunton School Main Building at Dusk

Long Distance Swimming Club receives two prestigious awards

Posted: 13th March 2023

Eighteen students – some as young as 12 – swam the English Channel over two days last August raising money for a local pool which was under threat of closure due to spiralling energy costs.

Now the extraordinary effort by the youngsters has received national recognition by the Channel Swimming and Pilots Federation at their annual dinner in Folkestone.

Taunton School’s Long Distance Swimming Club was presented with the CS&PF award for the ‘Most Successful Relay Completed under Exceptional Circumstances’ as well as The Jersey Long
Distance Swimming Club’s ‘Special Recognition’ award.

Head of Geography and long distance swimming coach, Hamish McCarthy said: “I am immensely proud to have received these awards on behalf of the 18 young boys and
girls who swam the Channel last August.

“When asked to jump off the boat, none faltered or hesitated. They all showed the courage, determination and team spirit which personifies the ethos of Taunton School.”

The students, working in relay teams of six, coped with strong tides, jellyfish and cold sea temperatures, to complete the crossing. Mr McCarthy, an Army veteran who has organised similar challenges for the military and wounded service personnel, trained the team three to four times a week.

Since 2016 Taunton School has trained seven successful Channel relay teams, comprising of 39 students and seven staff. The students are some of the youngest to have ever attempted the 21
mile crossing from Dover to Cap Gris Nez. Last summer’s swimmers raised money for Wivey Pool, an outdoor community pool in Wivesliscombe, which has been forced to close for the winter after their annual heating bill leapt from £7,000 a year to £25,000.

Over the last seven years, The Taunton School Long Distance Swimming Club has raised more than £80,000 for local and national charities from various endurance challenges it has taken part
in. Mr McCarthy and Old Tauntonian Jonathon Lawton, a fellow Channel swimmer who volunteers his time at the school, received the award from Sally Minty Gravett MBE who holds the double
world record for swimming the Channel and is also a member of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

“The work that Hamish has done with the Long Distance Swimming Club and the buy-in from students of all ages is incredible. The club really does take students with very little water confidence, builds them up physically and mentally, and turns out confident, fit and adventurous young people,” said Head of Sport, Dan Pettifer.

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