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GP’s ‘exhilarating’ charity Channel swim

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Dr Blackham Channel swim

FROME GP and partner at the Frome Medical Practice, Dr Alex Blackham, successfully completed a swim across the English Channel recently, as  part of a relay team of four.

Starting off from just outside Dover at 21:31 and then swimming through the night in one hour shifts, the team arrived on French soil at Cap Gris de Nez just 15 hours 39 minutes later at 13:10. Dr Blackham, who only took up open water sea swimming under a year ago, was asked at the last minute to fill a late vacancy in a team from Maidenhead called the 3 Degrees.

“The three other members of the team, Bill Stringer, Peter Shrimpton and Neil Sammes, invited me to join them in their Channel swim,’ says Alex. “However, despite my lack of experience, they were utterly supportive before and during the event. There was also no way that I was going to say ‘no’ to an opportunity like this!

“The whole experience of crossing such a large area of water was utterly exhilarating. At times it was very difficult, particularly when seasickness on the boat took hold and dehydration became an issue. I also came across hundreds of jellyfish in the dark. We just had to carry on. As part of the relay I feel an enormous sense of achievement in not letting down my three fellow team members who had put so much trust in me. Hopefully, our efforts have also raised a substantial amount for some great charities as well.”

Additionally, not only did Alex and her team have to cope with adverse weather conditions at the start of the swim, but the promised improvement in conditions when daylight broke never materialised.

“It became very challenging when just as we were approaching France, we had to cope with strong winds and tides which kept pushing us away from the Normandy coast,” explains Alex. “However, with each stroke I just kept thinking of my family and my colleagues who have supported me in this whole venture and that saw me through.”

Alex may have had limited experience as an open water sea swimmer and had never swam competitively before, but she has an impressive sporting background, finishing on the podium as a sprinter for her native Brazil at the Junior South American Games. Injuries, concentrating on qualification as a doctor and starting a family meant that sport then took a back seat in her life until she discovered sea swimming in August last year.

“Through most of the winter I have been training in the open sea, without a wet suit and with temperatures as low as 4 degrees. I have also attended special Channel swimming camps,” said Alex. “Yes, sometimes it does feel very cold indeed!”

Alex is already planning her next sea swimming exploit and is now seriously contemplating doing a solo crossing of the Channel within the next two years.

“It is also a fantastic way to keep fit and healthy, although I imagine that the number of patients following my example may be limited! I would also emphasise that anything similar to what I have done should only be done safely and with accredited and experienced swimming groups.”

Anyone interested in donating to the charities supported by the 3 Degrees should go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bill-stringer1 or https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PeterShrimpton

Pictured: Dr Alex Blackham swimming the English Channel with the French coast in the background.

(Photo by Katia Vastiau)

Pictured: A chart showing the course of the team swim from near Dover to Cap Gris de Nez.

Contact (Media Only): Karen Creffield (Practice Manager) 01373 468105

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