Until recently Nick Young did everything he could to avoid too much contact with cold water – the limited experience he had of swimming consisted of being dragged off to the local pool on a Saturday morning with his three children.
However, one Sunday afternoon he went to watch his niece Bel take part in a hydrotherapy session which inspired him to attempt to swim the English Channel in the hope of raising £50,000 to buy Bel a hydrotherapy pool.
“It was really hard to watch what Bel was put through during the session – her physio Mark told me it was the equivalent of running a marathon – but she tried her hardest at everything she was asked to do,” said Nick, 43, of Rimington, near Clitheroe.
“I came away determined that I wanted to do something to help her. The pool she was using was half an hour away from her house meaning that the two- hour physio session also involved travelling time, the ordeal of getting her in and out of the car at both ends, the complications of changing her at the swimming pool and finally having to put a cold, tired child back in the car for the journey home.”
Twelve-year-old Bel requires 24-hour care and physiotherapy for up to two hours a day. Tragedy struck one summer’s afternoon in 2010, two weeks before her ninth birthday when she was living in Skipton and attending Moorfield School in Ilkley.
She fell from a climbing frame in a neighbour’s garden – no distance at all but the angle of her fall meant she had suffered a catastrophic spinal injury.
Four years on, Bel, now living in Harrogate, remains paralysed from the neck down, confined to a wheelchair and reliant for much of the time on a ventilator to breathe.
Despite her situation, she remains a bright, happy and radiant child who amazes all those her meet her.
“She never grumbles or feels sorry for herself and I decided to set myself the challenge of a solo channel swim to try and raise enough money to buy a hydrotherapy pool for her to use at home,” said Nick.
“Her training sessions will still be tough but at least it will remove all the other complications and mean that she can have several hydrotherapy sessions a week.”
Nick, head of regional sales for Channel 5, based in Manchester, began training for the swim 12 months ago.
It has meant a huge commitment on his part - swimming up to 12 hours a week and participating in a number of open-water swims, including Windermere.
He also has to acclimatise his body to the water temperature by sitting in cold baths each week for longer periods of time.
The training is essential as the Channel presents an enormous challenge.
At its shortest point the crossing is 21 miles, but currents and conditions mean swimmers can end up swimming many more miles to finish.
And it isn’t just the distance that is the challenge – there are the high winds and wave heights, plus jellyfish, seaweed and floating debris. It is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
“There are strict rules surrounding channel swims,” said Nick.
“No wetsuits can be worn – at 15C the cold water is part of the challenge. Once you are in the water, you can’t get out until you are on French soil, you can’t even touch the boat that accompanies you across.
“Bodily contact with the boat or anyone in it means instant disqualification. It is not for the faint hearted – only 40 per cent of the swimmers who attempt the Channel actually complete it. More people have reached the top of Everest than have swum the English Channel.”
Nick’s swim is scheduled for the first week in September but is dependent on the weather and conditions at sea.
To find out more about the swim, visit the website nickyoungchannelswim. com and sign up to his blog.
There is also a link to give money, with all proceeds being donated to the Being Bel Trust.