Channel challenge soldiers Ripon lake training

Members of the nine strong team from the Army Foundation College who will be swimming the English Channel.
Members of the nine strong team from the Army Foundation College who will be swimming the English Channel.

A TEAM of soldiers have been training in a Ripon lake in preparation for swimming the English Channel.

Nine soldiers from the Army Foundation College in Harrogate have been taking early morning swims in the lake at Ripon Racecourse to get in shape for their cross Channel attempt in September.

Three, WO2 Lee Sawyer, Major Steve Wall and Sgt Amy Baker will be crossing the channel individually, while a team of six, Cpl Steve Hunt, Sgt Kelly Evans, Cpt Emily Peers, Cpt Matt Higgins, LBomb Sue Klopper and a soldier who can not be named for security reasons, will take part in a relay across the same stretch of water.

The whole team has been regularly swimming in the lake on the racecourse which has an average temperature of 19C to help get acclimatised to the chilly waters of the English Channel. They have also been training in the River Nidd which has temperatures of around 14C which is a similar temperature to the North Sea and the Channel.

The troops will also be completing five one-mile swims in the North Sea at Withernsea, Bridlington, Filey, Scarborough and Whitby as part of their progression from swimming in inland lakes to coastal waters.

Team manager WO2 Sawyer, Major Wall and Sgt Baker hope to become the first Army swimmers to complete an individual Channel crossing since Captain Matthew Webb in 1875.

While Cpl Hunt, Sgt Evans, Cpt Peers, Cpt Higgins, LBomb Klopper and the sixth soldier will swim the minimum 35,200-metre (21 miles) distance for two hours at a time as part of the relay.

WO2 Sawyer, 34, said the team had decided to take on the challenge to support two charities, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and the Special Care Baby Unit at Harrogate District Hospital.

“ABF is clearly close to our hearts being serving personnel,” said WO2 Sawyer.

“And when my own daughter was born at Harrogate District Hospital I thought what better way to show them my appreciation than to do something extraordinary to support the good work that they do.

“We are trying to raise in excess of £30,000 to be split equally between them both.”

Major Wall, Commanding Officer of the college’s Cambrai Company, is also attempting the full Channel swim.

“I have always enjoyed physical challenges and this is my biggest one yet,” he said.

“I will have to contend with the tide, weather, seasickness and jellyfish as well as simply navigating the world’s busiest stretch of water. Amazingly, more people have reached the top of Everest than have successfully swam the English Channel.”

For more details about the Cross-Channel swimmers log onto or follow the Army Foundation College’s Twitter feed @AFCHarrogate.