A team of Roedean School students has completed a charity relay swim across the English Channel to raise money for Ukrainian refugee children. The 6 schoolgirls swam through the night from Dover to Cap Gris-Nez in Northern France in 13 hours and 13 minutes.
Believed to be the first all-girls school pupils to complete the crossing are Bella Mapledoram, aged 12; Clara Burton-Dowsett, aged 14; Rose Owens, aged 15; Amy Ng and Olivia Crawley, both aged 16; and Roedean’s head girl Jemima Venturi, aged 17. For Year 11 pupils Rose and Amy, the charity challenge took place during the middle of their GCSE exam period, and the two girls sat a paper and swam the crossing on the same day.
Taking the Plunge for Ukrainian Refugees
Considered the ultimate long-distance challenge, the Channel crossing is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, with 600 tankers, 200 ferries, and other vessels passing through daily.
Together, the 6 Roedean School students swam more than 21 miles, buffeted by tides, dodging swarms of jellyfish, and facing waves up to 2 metres high. The team took turns swimming during the night, with the girls swapping every hour. The pilot boat accompanying the team carried their swim coach Stefan Serafimov and two teachers, John Hobbs and Kate Wakeling.
Despite the cold temperatures and choppy waves, the girls kept one another going through the night and cheered when they reached France. Bella, the youngest pupil of the group, described the feeling at the finish line as “amazing.”
The girls’ achievement will benefit young Ukrainian refugees as, through their swim sponsorship, the team has raised over £7,000 in aid of Roedean School’s 110% bursary scheme. This fund allowed six Ukrainian refugees to start at the Brighton school in the 2022 autumn term.
Training for the Channel Swim
Roedean School boasts a striking clifftop location just 10 minutes away from Brighton. From this position, overlooking the sea, students can easily access the beach through the School’s private tunnel, and the sea swimming club regularly meets first thing in the morning to get out into the water.
The Channel crossing team trained twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays at 6.30 a.m., before the school day began. Wetsuits aren’t allowed for the crossing, so the girls practised in costumes and swimming hats, building up their tolerance for the cold temperatures.
Top Marks for GCSE Swimmers
Two of the team managed the challenge despite also sitting their GCSE exams. Rose and Amy completed a biology paper in the morning before starting the charity swim at 11 p.m. that same day. Rose recounts having had little time to celebrate after completing the crossing as the girls had to revise for an upcoming chemistry paper the week after. Rose achieved top marks, one grade 8 and the rest grade 9s, and she is now entering Roedean School Sixth Form to study double maths, physics, and chemistry.
Headmaster Oliver Blond cited the Year 11 students’ incredible achievement as an example of Roedean School students’ well-roundedness and outstanding commitment to their co-curricular passions and community activities alongside their academic goals.
About Roedean School
Roedean School is a top UK day and boarding school for girls aged 11 to 18. Established in 1885 by the Lawrence sisters to offer girls an exceptional school experience, Roedean continues its vision today and provides an inspiring, comprehensive education in a safe and friendly community.
Though Roedean School students routinely achieve outstanding academic results, the School’s holistic educational ethos also ensures girls have access to plenty of opportunities to express themselves and grow into independent, cultured, and thoughtful young women who are eager to drive positive change in the world.
The Independent Schools Inspectorate recently awarded Roedean “excellent” in every category assessed, noting Roedean School students’ progress, positivity, and eagerness to participate in the school community.