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Rugby teammates to tackle the English Channel

Emma Smith and Emma Vockins will undertake a mammoth relay swim to raise money for Sue Ryder charity

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas


01635 886639

Rugby teammates to tackle the English Channel

A Woolhampton mother-of-four and her best friend are ready to make some waves when they swim a relay race across the busiest shipping lane in the world.   

Emma Smith will take to the waters of the English Channel at the end of this month with Emma Vockins, as part of an effort to raise money for the Sue Ryder charity.

Former local rugby stalwarts Miss Smith, 43, and Miss Vockins, 41, met during their playing days at Reading Ladies RFC.

Their friendship continued after the pair hung up their boots, when self-confessed sports enthusiast Miss Smith chose to follow Miss Vockins in trying open-water swimming.

Miss Smith first tried her hand at the outdoor sport in 2009, when she swam in an event at Dorney Lake, near Eton.

While the pair were training to swim in Lake Windermere, they decided there and then that they would one day swim the Channel.

The sporty duo are waiting to hear from organisers as to when they will undertake the epic challenge – which could be on any day between July 28 and August 2 – depending on the tidal window.

Starting with Miss Vockins, the two women will take it in turns to swim stretches of the water for two-hour stints at a time.

The challenge could last anywhere between 12 and 18 hours, depending on the weather conditions.

Miss Smith said: “We’ve been building up to this for about two years now. 

“The hardest thing is probably training in the winter, training in the pool.

“I was going to the pool at 9pm when the lanes would be free – psychologically, I had to make myself go.”

For other full-time mums and women who are looking to challenge themselves in the world of physical activity, Miss Smith believes the human body is capable of surpassing expectations. 

She said: “You can do more than you think you can do.

“I’ve never regretted taking up open-water swimming and we’re quite proud of what we have done.

“I remember getting into the sea back in April and it was about 10 degrees.

“I thought I would only last half an hour, but I managed to do a whole hour.”

To sponsor the pair, visit 

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