Johnny Gysin: Solo English Channel Swim 2022

The goal:
In July 2022 I will be making a solo attempt to swim the across the English Channel to France on behalf of three charities: Breast Cancer UK, Blind Veterans UK and The Survivors Trust, for whom I am hoping to raise at least £1,000 each. At 32km, the English Channel is amongst the most challenging open water swims in the world and, to date, has been swum solo by 1,881 swimmers a total of 2,428 times with an average crossing time of 13 hours, 33 minutes, 54 seconds.

I have always hoped to conduct some form of physical fundraiser whilst my injury-prone body remains capable of doing so. I started swimming in 2016 with the sole intention of improving my fitness and, after several years of inconsistency, began to take things slightly more seriously in 2020. During this time I grew conscious that, one day, I should try to overcome my fear of open water – something that deeply (pun intended) terrifies me. It is these two motivations, combined with a desire to find my ‘peak’ before hitting 30, that has found me taking on this challenge.

Things have moved fast since my first open water event in June 2021, a half marathon (5km) in Colwyn Bay, North Wales and, in addition to increasing distances, I’ve had to endure a great deal of cold water swimming throughout winter. For an official English Channel crossing to ‘count’, it must be done without a wetsuit and, with hypothermia accounting for a large proportion of unsuccessful crossing attempts, acclimatisation is critical. Hypothermia, injury in training/on the day and the psychological strain of swimming in the dark remain my biggest obstacles.
Full transparency:
Unfortunately, GoFundMe (and other similar organisations) do not cater for people in my position who are hoping to split their funds between more than one charity. Unless I was prepared to set up three separate GoFundMe pages and host the URL for each on a fourth with the hope that people donate relatively evenly, my only option was to set this up as a personal donation page. To be 100% transparent, this means that all donated funds will have to be sent to my personal bank account and, at the end of the fundraiser, split manually by me and sent to each charity. Sadly, this means that the funds will be subject to a 2.9% transaction fee rather than the usual 1.9% for ‘official’ charity donation pages, but at least those fees will help GoFundMe to continue with their important work too. I am sure it goes without saying, but every remaining penny will be split equally and sent to my three chosen charities and all aspects of this swim will be funded with my own money.

Breast Cancer UK (BCUK)
With approximately 55,000 new diagnoses each year, Breast Cancer remains the most common form of cancer in the UK. The ongoing pandemic has accentuated the challenges of managing this disease and it is currently thought that there are approximately 12,000 people living with undiagnosed Breast Cancer in the UK. A large part of BCUK’s work centres on funding animal-free research into the environmental and chemical causes of the disease and the charity currently has six ongoing research projects through the Universities of Aberdeen, Brunel, Leeds and King’s College London. In addition to scientific research, BCUK also have an important advisory and public health role whereby they provide practical guidance on how to minimise risks of developing the disease as well as campaigning to strengthen public health and environmental protections.

Blind Veterans UK (BVUK)
Founded in 1915, BVUK was initially founded to support soldiers blinded during service in WWI. With a focus on rehabilitation, training, practical advice and emotional support, the charity has since supported tens of thousands of blind veterans. Importantly, their work also covers non-combatants injured as a result of war and certain family members, widows/widowers and carers who require assistance. With over 90% of blind veterans being over 70 years of age, social isolation is a common concern for BVUK and one that has grown as a result of the pandemic. Their work throughout the last two years has been particularly important in this regard.

The Survivors Trust (TST)
It’s horrific to write, but every five minutes someone in the UK is raped and it’s thought that one in four women and one in six men have experienced sexual violence at some stage of their lives. Historically, many specialist trauma centres for such individuals worked in isolation with little or no regional/national funding and, as a result, were forced to close. TST operate as an ‘umbrella agency’ to provide infrastructural support to such centres and, through their network of 124 member agencies in the UK and Ireland, are able to provide information, advice, support and therapy to over 80,000 individuals each year.
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Johnny Gysin 
London, UK