After three years of dreaming and two years of preparing, the Grimsby Water Rats Junior English Channel Relay Team succeeded in becoming English Channel Relay swimmers, landing on the beach at Wissant at 12.07pm on June 25 with a swim time of 13hrs 2 mins.
The team comprised of QEGS staff member Jo Fieldsend and QEGS student swimmers, Georgia Barnett, Carter Vernon, George Vickers, Alex Parker (from King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth) and Ross Martinelli from the Grimsby Water Rats.
They started in the dark, battled sea sickness, jelly fish and then, in the final few miles, strong tides threatened their chances of landing, however they all did what was needed, dug deep and in the spirit of their team motto – ‘they got it done’.
Jo Fieldsend, team leader and assistant headteacher at QEGS, in Horncastle, said: ‘The young swimmers, they are heroes each and every one of them – Georgia, Carter, Alex, George and Ross – they are simply inspirational!
“They each have the world at their feet, bright futures ahead, with this mind-set and strength of character they will be unstoppable in life.
“Our success, however, was a wider team effort and on behalf of the team, I would like to thank the swimming community and all of our sponsors, the team at the Channel Swimming Association (CSA), Stuart Gleeson, the boat pilot, Rob the official CSA observer who will ratify the swim, the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Water Rats, QEGS Horncastle and the wider QEGS community, the parents and families of the swimmers and, finally, the swimmers who themselves took on this challenge and got the job done.
“I am immensely proud of the young swimmers and immensely grateful for all of the support we have received – thank you.”
Alex Martinelli, chairman of the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Water Rats added: “I and the other members of the club are incredibly proud of our junior team that have succeeded in swimming across the English Channel as a relay team for charity.
“We have been delighted to support the young swimmers.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure watching the team develop and face the challenge head on. This is what the club is all about and the young swimmers deserve their success.”
The idea for the charity challenge first started in May 2019 and the team were due to swim in July 2020, but this date had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Heather Payne, CEO at the Horncastle Education Trust, said: “We are in awe of these amazing young people.
“They have trained incredibly hard and showed steely determination and ambition.
“It would not have been possible without the inspirational leadership of Jo Fieldsend, assistant head at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Horncastle.
“From the very start to the very end, she has shepherded this team of talented swimmers through their training and kept them motivated even when the pandemic delayed their Channel attempt last summer.
“Jo leads by example and children are our future and with these young people, we are in safe hands.
“Not being content with the challenge itself, they have also raised well-needed funds for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust which supports mental health in young people.
“We are immensely proud of the team and this landmark achievement; they fully deserve their success.”
Money raised will be split between the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust and a Legacy Adventure Fund for QEGS students.
QEGS headteacher Simon Furness said: ‘What a remarkable achievement for this team of young people.
“Over the past two years the team have worked so hard, challenging themselves and pushing themselves out of their comfort zones to prepare for this challenge.
“The success of the swim and the achievement is very well deserved and as a result of their hard work, dedication and resilience –we are incredibly proud of them and their actions will undoubtedly go on to inspire other young people in the future.”
Andy Parker is a teacher at QEGS and parent of Alex Parker, who attends KEVIGS in Louth.
Andy said: “I have ran swimming teams for the ESSA schools championships for the past few years.
“In 2019 we reached the Nationals Finals in London so when Jo Fieldsend (a newly appointed assistant headteacher) approached me for help in finding swimmers - I had a few in mind. Unfortunately, my national team were too young, but we still had some to approach.”
At this point, Andy decided to ask whether his son Alex could join the team.
Andy explained: “Alex has been a competitive swimmer for Skegness Swim Team for some time.
“But, the channel swim is not really about how quick a swimmer you are, rather how tough you are mentally.
“I was, of course, worried about what the swim would take out of him, but I knew that the team were extremely strong and the unerring enthusiasm and support from Jo would leave anyone with confidence.
“The swimmers all believed in her and she in them. I knew with her on board they would not fail. The youngsters all became really great friends too and, even when seasickness took its hold on the boat, they stood strong together.
“I knew in my heart that only a drastic downturn in the weather would prevent them from completing the challenge and I think Alex thought that too.
“He was laid back throughout and I think the parents not on the boat had more butterflies than him. He simply knew they would do it. They’d trained hard and they had the best team leader and organiser that they could possibly have.
“I still don’t think that Alex realises just how rare and challenging it is what they have achieved. I do, however, feel that he is more than aware of how teamwork got them through and of the influence Jo has had on him in this short time.
“We, as a family, certainly value all that Jo has done and I know that the other families think likewise. She has probably changed our children’s lives forever.”
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