The Henley Mermaids have announced a Year of Challenges for 2022, which will see members of the team attempt to swim the Bristol Channel, the North Channel, the Freedom Swim in South Africa, and the length of the Thames from navigable source to swimmable sea.
Their swims are also part of this year’s campaign to raise awareness of river and ocean pollution and campaign for an end to sewage discharges in our waterways. The Mermaids will be supporting raising money for environmental charity, Surfers Against Sewage.
Surfers Against Sewage is a national marine conservation and campaigning charity that inspires, unites and empowers communities to take action to protect oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife.
The group of five swimming women, Laura Reineke, Joan Fennelly, Susan Barry, Fiona Print and Jo Robb are attempting the challenges throughout the year.
Laura will kick off the year’s challenges in April by swimming from Robben Island to Cape Town (7.5km). The group of five will attempt again to become the first all-female team to swim the Bristol Channel and they will swim the length of the Thames over the course of the summer. Laura and Joan will be aiming to complete the prestigious triple Crown of channel swims by swimming the North Channel from Ireland to Scotland.
Laura said, “Swimming together has made us aware of the terrible state of our rivers. Only 14% of rivers in England are considered to be in good ecological health. The Environmental Audit Committee found that our rivers are being polluted with a chemical cocktail of sewage, slurry and microplastics. We are proud to use our voices to stand up for our rivers and for our beloved River Thames.”
The Freedom Swim starting where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years. It is also known for its large population of great white sharks attracted by their main food source (apart from ridiculous swimmers) seals. Laura comments, “I’m terrified but also incredibly excited. It will be moving and inspiring to attempt the Freedom Swim, not to mention rather chilly. The thought of the Great Whites will keep me moving, though.” Philip Booth Esq Estate Agents will be sponsoring the swim.
In June 2022, Mermaids Joan and Laura will attempt to swim the North Channel. The shortest distance across the North Channel in a straight line is 34.5km. Water temperature will be a very chilly 11-13 degrees and there are many jellyfish, including Lion’s Mane Jellies! The North Channel swim is considered the toughest of the Seven Ocean Sea Swims. The seven ocean swims include the English Channel and the Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Henley Information Systems are generously sponsoring this swim.
While looking forward to swimming the length of the Thames and the Bristol Channel with the Mermaids this summer, Joan said, “Taking on the challenge of swimming from Northern Ireland to Scotland will be very special. It will be a chance for my family and friends in Ireland to be on the ground and live the experience with us. It is the toughest of all the challenges we’ve ever attempted. I am so excited to become a Triple Crown swimmer!”
In July the full complement of Mermaids are re-attempting the Bristol Channel, having had their first attempt last summer aborted after swimming 61km, and only 4km from finishing. The Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal range in the world and is being kindly sponsored by Hanson Regan.
Throughout the summer the Mermaids hope to swim the length of the Thames in sections to highlight the issue of pollution in our rivers. Mermaid Jo said, “Over the course of the past two years, we’ve raised more than £72,000 for Henley Music School and charities for brain condition. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our family, friends and community. This year we are raising money and awareness around pollution in our waterways, and joining the fight to help save our rivers.”
The Mermaids are also participating a series of river cleans, to coincide with World Rivers Day, and Earth Day. They are asking for local residents to come along and help on 24 April and 24 September To register your attendance, please fill in the form on their website https://www.henleymermaids.com/rivercleans
Susan said, “The river Thames is a national treasure that is enjoyed by boaters, swimmers, walkers, paddleboarders. It’s also home to a huge array of wildlife. It’s time we treated our rivers with the respect they deserve. I hope people will support us this year.” Fiona added, “We have a variety of challenges this year with our love of open water swimming at its centre. Our rivers belong to us all and need our voice to help to protect them”
Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage said, “Wild swimming over 500 miles in 2022 must simultaneously be an exhilarating and demanding prospect – what a challenge! We couldn’t be more proud to have been selected by the Henley Mermaids as their nominated charity for 2022. They’ll be swimming in the ocean and rivers that Surfers Against Sewage are committed to protecting through our campaigns and community initiatives. We’ll be battling tides of pollution and plastic, whilst they battle the tides of the channels, rivers and oceans they’re going to swim in. Thank you for highlighting the plight of the ocean and the need for more Ocean Activism in this most crucial decade for the environment. We wish The Henley Mermaids all the best in preparation for their challenges, and look forward to sharing their incredible achievements with our communities.
If you’d like to support the Mermaids in their swimming challenges, raising money and awareness for Surfers Against Sewage please visit their website www.henleymermaids.com or go straight to their just giving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/henleymermaids