Why did you choose to fundraise for the RNLI?
Our group of (12 women and 1 man), ranging in age from 24 to 67, are all passionate about the sea. Several of the swimmers had been RNLI crew members so they were strong supporters, but many of us had enjoyed various water sports - sailing, kite surfing, swimming, rowing and much more - and while doing these sports were all so aware of the amazing work the RNLI does in keeping people safe at sea.
What’s your favourite thing about the RNLI?
The RNLI has got such a long and wonderful history of keeping people safe at sea, it is amazing to see the things that they achieve. It is wonderful to know that this institution is supported solely by donations from the public, and that it has such an amazing track record of saving lives.
How did you prepare for your big swim?
We knew the swim from Arran to Troon was not without risk and that, should anything go wrong, the RNLI would be on hand. Of course the very last thing we wanted was to cost the RNLI more money if we had to be rescued, so we worked very hard to train, prepare and assess and moderate the risks involved.
None of us were particularly serious swimmers before we started, but were all inspired by living in the area and looking at Arran every day too. We prepared for a full year before we started, training in swimming pools to improve technique, and in the sea to acclimatise to the cold.
How did your event go?
Thirteen of us swam from the Isle of Arran off the coast of Ayrshire to Troon on the Scottish mainland, a distance of about 18 miles. We did it in two teams, one of 6 and one of 7 - each team swam in a relay, with each swimmer in the water for an hour at a time. Many did it without wetsuits!
We started from Lamlash before it got light at 5.15am on 1 October 2016, and finished at about 8.20pm that evening on the beach at Troon. The length of the swim meant that many swimmers spent over 3 hours in the water across the day.
How much did you raise?
We raised £22,000 which we split between the RNLI and another local charity, the Jo Walters Trust.
What did you enjoy the most about fundraising for the RNLI?
The RNLI is such a well-known and respected charity that many people were only too pleased to sponsor us. It was also great to be supporting a charity that meant so much in our local coastal area, in fact one of our support boats would not accept any payment - he himself had been rescued by the RNLI the year before, and wanted to do his bit to repay them.
I found the fundraising team were great to work with. Becky, our contact at the RNLI was really helpful, offering advice with PR and materials. We were also delighted when we received an invitation from the Troon Lifeboat Station to bring our families down for a tour and to see the lifeboats. When the RNLI asked us to complete a risk assessment, this proved a very useful exercise for us and helped ensure that we took as many precautions as we could.
Do you have any top tips for fundraising?
Make it personal - taking the time to explain what we were doing, and why it mattered to us, really helped to persuade people that this was not going to be easy, and that it was a cause worthy of their support. Also the fact that it was something that many people (including us!) found daunting and hard was a big help. It seemed like a proper 'challenge'.
What would you say to someone thinking about fundraising for the RNLI?
Do it! The RNLI is such a vital institution and does practical lifesaving work every day. I think they need all the support they can get. Volunteer women and men risk their own lives every day to save the lives of others, and we should all help by ensuring they have the right equipment and training to do this to the best of their ability. As the government does not support the RNLI, we all need to do what we can to support this organisation.