A TEENAGE girl faced her fear of jellyfish and navigated the world’s busiest shipping lane when she swam solo across the English Channel.
The impressive feat saw Lois Harrison, 17, of Eastern Avenue, Shoreham, cover the 30 miles from Dover to Calais in 12 hours and 19 minutes.
Proud mum Sarah, 50, said: “I feel honoured to have her as a daughter. I have been on the seaside with her since she was 13. It’s a real brave thing for a parent to do, letting your child swim in the sea, but Lois has always wanted to be a risk-taker and push limits.
“The sacrifices have been amazing. She’s had to bulk up and put on weight, and she’s being doing A Levels. Her friends have stuck by her and been amazing.”
Under the watchful eye of Andy King, skipper of Louise Jane – the escort fishing vessel, Lois began her swim at 7.43am last Tuesday.
The teenager has swam for Brighton Swimming Club since the age of 12 and was inspired to tackle the Channel after participating in pier to pier races (Brighton Pier to the West Pier). Last July she swam the Channel as part of a relay team in aid of the World Wildlife Fund. The team completed the swim in 11 hours and 21 minutes.
I feel honoured to have her as a daughter.Sarah Harrison, of Eastern Avenue, Shoreham
Encouraged by the enthusiasm of the Brighton Sea Swimmers and her sea swimming coach Fiona Southwell, Lois trained relentlessly in the open water through the winter to accustom her body to the colder water. She successfully qualified under the Channel Swimming Association (CSA) rules in Mallorca, in April.
Sarah described late chairman of Brighton Swimming Club John Ottaway and current chairman Jasper Stevens as inspirational. She added: “We really value these people beyond belief.”
A period of high winds meant Lois’s charitable effort was delayed by several weeks, but, eventually, a tight 12-hour slot of calm weather opened up allowing her to do the swim.
Sarah said her daughter maintained a ‘phenomenal steady and unchanging stroke rate’ and showed ‘pure determination to succeed’ as she passed tankers in the shipping lane and overtook other Channel swimmers.
Footage of the swim shows a large jellyfish crossing Lois’s path. Despite having a fear of the sea creature and sustaining a few stings from its tentacles, she continued undeterred towards the French coastline.
As she approached France, strong tides slowed her progress, but she dug deep and completed the swim at 8.09pm, accompanied by a CSA official in a dinghy.
Lois is currently enjoying a holiday with friends in Switzerland as she recovers from the swim. Her efforts have raised more than £1,000 for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice. Donations can still be made by visiting www.justgiving.com/lois-harrison1
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