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Channel Relay with The Summer Solstice Silkies

/ Health & Fitness

Meet Tracey Wilkinson, our Lifestyle Partnerships Manager, and Lou Tyler, a Swim Teacher at Meridian Leisure Centre. Their inspiring mission? To conquer the challenge of completing a channel relay – And it begins this week!  

They will be joined by Alison Boardman (a member here at our Louth venue), Kathryn Pinder (who swims with Dolphin Masters & Louth Triathlon Club), Victoria Jacklin and Denise Cant (who is the organiser). The group have joined forces to create a formidable team, known as…

‘The Summer Solstice Silkies’!  

Tracey and Lou began their journey two years ago upon their return to Grimsby and Cleethorpes Water Rats. They were both tempted by Water Rats club member, Denise, to take part in the challenge! As Tracey comments,  

“The very first day I pulled up in my car, Denise asked me if I fancied going to France to do some swimming? Of course I said, yes!”  

What Tracey didn’t quite realise at the time, was that it would be a channel relay swim… There was now a potential mammoth journey that ahead of her…But Tracey, being known as someone who is always ready to take on a challenge and push her limits in order to achieve great things – she was already drawn in and now, is officially hooked!  

The determined ladies are no strangers to the water. Tracey has undertaken the Humber Swim before and swims regularly in her free time – And Lou is a superb Swim Teacher who has always enjoyed wetsuit open water swimming. She has been encouraged to give it a go… Just without the wetsuit! Lou admits, 

“It sounded like a good idea at the time…” 

Before the relay, they had to build up to a two-hour qualifier, swimming in water at temperatures of 15 degrees or less! They completed at the end of last Summer, then had to repeat the process in April when the water in the docks was only around 13/14 degrees. Admittedly, they found this to be a huge challenge, even after a lot of training! They both agreed, 

“You just get fed up of being cold!”  

Training itself has been demanding, of course physically, but also mentally. They have both experienced feeling like they are going backwards and not forwards, no matter what training they were doing. But one thing remained consistent and that is that they have all supported each other throughout. 

Now the challenge is finally upon them, as they make the journey over to Dover! 

What does it involve?  

The group will be swimming from Dover to France, swimming one hour at a time in a dedicated order (which cannot be changed). Therefore, this does mean that if this order changes, or if someone cannot complete their swim, that the group will not be able to complete their challenge… It is entirely a team effort. Out of six, Lou is number two and Tracey is number five! 

When you are not in the water swimming, you are waiting in a boat for your next swim and helping teammates to prepare for theirs! (Of course, time on the boat is also importantly spent trying to warm up and fuelling up on food and water.) They have tried to replicate this in their training, with interval swims and getting in and out of the sea to help cope with the thought of entering back into cold waters. They even completed a night swim to prepare, as part of their training! 

Tracey tells us,  

“You learn your limits and look out for each other. We have learnt a lot about each other in the process. It is not just about the swimming.” 

Joining them on their journey will be their designated boat called Sea Leopard. The Sea Leopard is equipped with an extremely experienced pilot and an observer. Safety is paramount during their relay. They expect to face challenges like sea sickness, fatigue and of course, feeling extremely cold! At any time, if the pilot or observer feels that someone is not well enough, or the weather conditions are poor, the relay would be stopped.  

“Personally, it will be a relief when it is over as it has been such a long time in the making…it will just be a big achievement.”    

We wish The Summer Solstice Silkies all the best on their incredible challenge!

We look forward to hearing about their adventure on their return. For now, they await a call from their pilot to give them the ‘all clear’ to begin…  

As the name suggests, our group of six will hopefully be swimming across the channel during the Summer Solstice, which occurs on the longest day of the year. (You can track their channel relay swimming journey here.

This all-women’s team have funded their endeavour, ensuring that every penny raised goes directly towards supporting Grimsby’s Women’s Aid. If you want to show your support, you can donate here.

During Drowning Prevention Week, Tracey wanted this message to be completely clear… 

“We never swim on our own. It is a team effort with experienced swimmers, training with an affiliated open water swimming club and completing the challenge with trained pilots and observers.”  


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You can support The Summer Solstice Silkies' and help raise vital funds for North East Lincolnshire Women's Aid.

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