PUPILS from Bryanston School near Blandford have completed a challenging swim across The Solent and raised nearly £5,000 for Level Water, a national children’s charity.

Aged between 14 and 18, the ten pupils successfully completed the 6km crossing from Fort Gilkicker near Gosport to Ryde Sands on the Isle of Wight after many months of intensive open water training at various locations along the Dorset coast.

Bryanston’s Head of Swimming, Richard Johnson said: “This is a stunning achievement for every member of the team. The Solent is an iconic stretch of water and presents a real test of endurance and a demanding challenge for even the most accomplished swimmers, as the swell, tidal currents and water traffic can be very disorientating.

"Although absolutely exhausted, all of our swimmers had beaming smiles as they climbed out of the water and there is no doubt the experience will last in their memory for many years to come. They deserve a great deal of credit for their diligent approach to training and for rising to the challenge with such determination and good humour.”

It took around two hours for all pupils to complete the swim, with 14-year-old Max Leigh completing the course in just 1 hour 8 minutes. The event was planned and supervised by experienced event organisers, Solent Swim, with kayakers accompanying each pupil and RIB boats providing full safety cover throughout the swim.

The pupils are all from the swimming team at Bryanston, which was formed a few years ago following completion of the School’s new swimming facility. After successful participation at the national swimming event held at the London Aquatics Centre, team members were very keen to develop their open water swimming experience and chose The Solent swimming challenge as an ambitious target to aim for.

Although the national lockdowns curtailed further gala attendance and much of the planned training, they have spent the past six months developing their skills and stamina in Bryanston’s swimming pool and in the sea at Chapman’s Pool, Weymouth and Studland. They have taken full advantage of the strength and conditioning courses within Bryanston’s Performance Sports Programme as well as the insight and support of respected open water swimming coaches, Craig Dooley and Kate Mason.

The team also benefitted from the experience of Oly Rush – an environmental campaigner who recently broke the record for swimming right around the Isle of Wight - during one of the training sessions at Chapman’s Pool.

Outgoing Bryanston swim squad captain, Fiona Murray, 17 said: "Although we all have a great sense of personal achievement having completed such a tough swim, it really was a team effort with everyone supporting and encouraging each other during the training and on the day itself.

“We all really love swimming, but Oly’s experience was truly inspirational and he demonstrated how inner strength and resolve is just as important as swimming skills and techniques when faced with such a daunting challenge.”

The squad’s new captain, Blaise Lanphere, 17 said: “We are delighted to have raised so much money for Level Water. Although the swim was a real test of stamina and it was quite unnerving to be swimming with so many yachts, hovercrafts, ferries and cargo ships around us, we all knew our efforts were for such a good cause. The charity is very close to our hearts as it uses the power and experience of swimming to improve lives for children with disabilities.”

Anyone wishing to support the fundraising by the Bryanston Swim Squad should visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/brysolentswim2021.