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Our Trustee Rachael Whitson is swimming the English Channel to raise funds for our vital services

Published on 31 July 2018 12:28 PM

Exeter businesswoman and Age UK Exeter trustee Rachael Whitson is swimming the English Channel with Team H2 Oh! to raise funds for a local charity close to her heart - Age UK Exeter.

Rachael became a trustee of the charity at a time when her 95-year-old grandfather was struggling to remain independent at home. 

“It upset me to think of my grandfather alone and struggling when his family were hundreds of miles away – geography meant we weren’t always on hand to help.  He was typical of so many older people living alone; Age UK Exeter provides valuable support and companionship to older people who might otherwise be feeling lonely, vulnerable and isolated. 

My grandfather’s plight moved me to make a difference. Through my fundraising efforts and volunteering as a  trustee of Age UK Exeter, I want to help vulnerable, isolated and lonely older people living in and around our city to find support and companionship through their many and varied services.  These include: Voluntary visiting and befriending, information and advice, day services, activity groups, home from the hospital service, support for carers of people with dementia, enabling and home help, Men in Sheds and drop in social groups.”

Rachael is part of H2 Oh! a team of four women who met at open water swimming lessons 2½ years ago plus their coach Pete.

The Channel even at its shortest crossing is 21 miles, but the team anticipate that they will swim much further than this as the current will move them many miles from side to side as the tide ebbs and flows. The team will be swimming in relay, and it is anticipated that the crossing could take between 18 to 25 hours.

"Conditions in the Channel are variable and can change rapidly. We hope to swim in storm force one and two conditions, but it could be force 6 with wave heights of up to two meters. At times we will swim in the dark, the water will be cold, and there is a good chance of us meeting jellyfish, seaweed and planks of wood, not to mention the occasional oil tanker!"

Their route crosses one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with 600 tankers passing through and 200 ferries/sea-cats and other vessels crossing daily. Team H2 Oh!s escort boat, Louise-Jane will be there to ensure their safe passage. 

Martyn Rogers, CEO of Age UK Exeter says:

“We are so impressed and full of admiration that Rachael has taken on this epic challenge for us and wish her and Team H2 Oh! the very best of luck in their amazing endeavour.”


Please help by sponsoring Racheal here

Follow Team H2 oh!s journey on Facebook here

The event will take place on: 18th-25th August (weather dependent). The team will be swimming from Dover to the nearest land (south of Cap Gris). The precise date will be determined at the last minute - weather and tide conditions dependent. 

*UPDATE* This event has been put back to 2nd / 3rd October due to bad weather.