TWO teachers have channelled their inner swimmer by braving the English Channel in a relay team for Mencap, a charity helping people with learning disabilities.

Claire Twitchin, a teaching assistant at Gatehouse Primary Academy in Dawlish decided to take on the challenge with fellow teacher Liz Borbon.

A fundraising machine, Claire has always been keen to make a difference, whether it be swimming the Channel or receiving an MBE for her work raising money for NHS supplies during Covid.

‘I’d just come back from a back and shoulder injury so I started swimming the September before,’ said Claire.

‘Neither of us had had a lot of experience but I had done a lot of sea swimming prior to my injury but Liz had not. She was remarkable in what she achieved.’

After a series of gruelling training swims, some overnight, Claire and Liz were well on their way to taking on the challenge.

Leaving Folkestone Harbour in the early hours and commencing the swim from Samphire Hoe at 3.19am. Claire and and Liz were part of a six-part relay team, each swimming an hour at a time, covering the overall distance of 30.86 miles.

Claire said: ‘So the conditions were very varied. It started off calm. It then really picked up and got very choppy. It remained choppy until about mid-channel.

‘Then the last three miles getting into France were, what I can only describe as brutal. Just the tide relentlessly against you. The boat behind us didn’t break the tide and had to turn back.

‘We managed to just push through, but the last bit was very gruelling. The young lad on our team, the pilot said for a time he was actually swimming backwards.’

Claire added: ‘We had so many people who had invested in us doing this, that’s what kept me going, they were always in the back of my mind throughout the challenge.’

The relay team finally made it onto French soil as the sun set. ‘A lovely lady we called Jo Jo was the final swimmer,’ said Claire, ‘She finished the swim whilst getting stung relentlessly by jellyfish.

‘It was a feeling of absolute elation and utter exhaustion.’

Together, Claire and Liz made £3,691 and counting, almost double their original target.

‘It was a fantastic result, thanks so much to everyone who supported us, particularly all our local sponsors. Without them, I don’t think this whole thing would have happened, she added. ’

To donate to Claire and Liz’s fundraiser, visit: