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Newbury teen completes team Channel swim in aid of mental health charity Solent Mind

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A NEWBURY teenager has faced her fears, and a host of jellyfish, as she took on the challenge of a lifetime in a bid to raise thousands of pounds for a mental health charity.

St Bartholomew’s School pupil, Darcy Hunt – who is just 14-years-old – took part in a team Channel swim on Friday night, raising more than £10,000 for Solent Mind.

Named Team Sea6, the six friends from Winchester City Penguins Swimming Club, aged between 13 and 15, swam the 21 miles from England to France in an amazing time of 10 hours 18 minutes.

Darcy Hunt just before her second swim (49185645)
Darcy Hunt just before her second swim (49185645)

The time is one of the fastest ever recorded by a team of junior girls and the second fastest team time this year, bettered only by a group from Cambridge University.

They faced a sea temperature of just 15 degrees, a huge number of jellyfish and sea sickness as they swam in strict rotation for one hour at a time across one of the busiest shipping channels in the world.

Darcy, who was stung by jellyfish during the swim, completed two hour-long stints in the water, one in the dark and one just an hour and a half before they arrived in France.

Team Sea6 with their coaches on board the board after they had completed the swim (49185636)
Team Sea6 with their coaches on board the board after they had completed the swim (49185636)

The daring teenager, who also swims with Newbury District Swimming Club, said: “It was the best but most challenging experience of my life but I wouldn’t change a thing.

“I found swimming through the jellyfish the most challenging part because you just never knew when you might get stung and also swimming in pitch black with no one else in the water with you was also quite daunting.”

The intrepid teens took to the freezing waters off Samphire Beach in Dover in total darkness at 11.35pm on Friday (July 9), after 18 months of hard training throughout lockdown, and touched land near Cap Gris Nez just before 10am on Saturday morning. They were not allowed to wear wetsuits for the challenge, swimming with lights tied to the back of their goggles and swimsuits.

They were first introduced to the open water by veteran swimmers, channel soloists and qualified open water coaches, Kate Steels and Rory Fitzgerald.

Darcy in the water for the second time, with France in sight (49185638)
Darcy in the water for the second time, with France in sight (49185638)

Ms Steels said: “I am incredibly proud of them all, they have trained incredibly hard and Darcy swam really well.

“They all overcame their individual fears; they wanted to do it for themselves and they held it together for the team. They were simply amazing.

“It was important to us all to raise money for a charity alongside this Channel Swim and we chose Solent Mind.

“The positive physical and mental health benefits of swimming and especially swimming in the outdoors, have been enjoyed by us all – particularly during the past year.

“Never has there been a time when our young people were under so much pressure or needed our compassion and support more.

“We are extremely proud of Team Sea 6. They worked so hard and overcame their individual fears for the team. Their swim was truly phenomenal.”

Solent Mind works to ensure that everyone who needs help with their mental health has somewhere and someone to turn to.

You can still donate at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/winchestercitychannelswim

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