SIX schoolgirls from Roedean School have successfully relay swam the English Channel – despite two of them having to fit it in between GCSE papers.

Rose Owens, 15, Amy Ng 16, Bella Mapledoram 12, Clara Burton-Dowsett, 14, Olivia Crawley, 16, and head girl Jemima Venturi, 17, are thought to be the first all-girls school pupils to achieve the crossing, coping with one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with 600 tankers passing through daily as well as 200 ferries and other vessels.




The schoolgirls swam overnight in hourly rotation through the pitch-black choppy waters between Dover and Cap Gris Nez, considered to be the ultimate long-distance challenge given the unpredictable weather and wave heights sometimes in excess of two metres. The swim as the crow flies is 21 miles but is further when buffeting tides are taken into account.

Rose and Amy hotfooted it to the Dover departure point directly from a biology paper, joining the others for the night swim to Cap Gris Nez, which they achieved in 13hrs and 13 minutes.

The girls, who were accompanied in the pilot boat by teachers John Hobbs and Kate Wakeling and swim coach Stefan Serafimov, battled changing tides, swarms of jellyfish and cold conditions as they made the swim but said they loved every minute of it.


Swimming the channel

Swimming the channel


Rose said: “We had to wait to be told when our slot would be to make the crossing and I was really worried in case it clashed with one of my exams. But luckily we were given an 11pm departure time by the Channel Swimming Association so I had my biology exam in the morning and then went to Dover. It felt amazing to do the swim and I was lucky enough to be the relay team member who reached France but there wasn’t much celebrating because Amy and I have to revise for a chemistry paper coming up!”

Thanks to Roedean’s position overlooking the sea in Brighton, the girls were able to train each Monday and Friday morning before lessons started and had got used to swimming in cold temperatures in just costumes and swimming hats, as wetsuits are not allowed for the crossing.

Bella, the youngest in the group, added: “Physically it wasn’t too bad although the tide changed while I was swimming so I had to really sprint to stay on course. I think mentally it was quite tough because your brain kept saying you can’t do this. But I knew from training that I could, even though it was so cold in the night. Each time I had a wobble, I looked up to see the rest of the girls on the boat dancing to Elton John’s I’m Still Standing and wolfing pasta to keep their strength up and urging me on and I knew I couldn’t let the team down.”

She added: “When we got to France we all started screaming with excitement that we had made it. The boat honked in celebration and it was an amazing feeling.”

The girls have all been sponsored and have so far raised £7,100 which will go towards Roedean’s 110% bursary fund for six Ukrainian refugees, who will start at the school in September.

Headgirl Jemima added: “When the war in Ukraine started I felt so helpless and I really wanted to try and help. I asked my teachers why can’t we bring some Ukrainian girls over to the school although I knew it would be a long shot. But then one of the teachers told me the school had set up a 110% bursary scheme and had given places to some girls from September so I thought the swim was a great way to raise money to help with that.”