A man from London is confronting his fear of open water and swimming the English Channel to raise funds for three charities including Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.
Johnny Gysin, 27, originally from Northamptonshire, will be swimming the 21-mile distance from Dover to the northern coast of France in July.
The English Channel is amongst the most challenging open water swims in the world and quite a feat for Johnny who only took up open water swimming during the Covid-19 pandemic and has a fear of open water.
“I’ve always wanted to take on a physical challenge for charity, but due to problems with my knees I had to find something other than running.
“I started swimming in 2016. As I started to improve, it seemed like it could be a good option for a fundraiser if I could find something interesting enough to swim!
“Then during the winter Covid lockdown I took up open water swimming when my dad told me about an event his friend had been running for the last few years on the Isles of Scilly.
“That event was 15km across four swims, under half the distance of the English Channel swim which is the Everest of open water swimming.
“I’m actually petrified of open water and what lurks under the surface but this is a fantastic opportunity to get over that fear, work on my fitness and raise money for three fantastic causes.
“My training has been hampered by injuries and illness and it makes me nervous when I think of how much there is still to do to make sure I am ready. However, I’m looking forward to the challenge and enjoying the whole process. I’ve certainly grown a lot as a person and am hugely overwhelmed by the number of people supporting me.”
During the swim Johnny will be supported by a boat manned by friends and family to provide him with food and water. However, Channel crossing rules state that you can’t touch another person or the boat once you start the swim, so he’ll have to be fed using bottles or food in a net. The average water temperature in July is a chilly 15-16°C and Channel swimmers are not allowed to wear wetsuits.
“The average time for swimmers to complete the crossing is about 13 and a half hours. I’ve never swam anywhere close to the length I’ll be doing and have no idea how long it will take me – I’ll just be happy to finish!”
As well as Blind Veterans UK, Johnny will be raising money for Breast Cancer UK and The Survivors Trust.
“It’s a privilege to be able to help these three incredibly worthy charities. I first heard of Blind Veterans UK only last year and I’ve since read a lot about the charity’s fantastic work to ensure that those who have lost their sight are not isolated, particularly during the pandemic.
“My dad served in the British Army for 12 years with the Parachute Regiment and I therefore personally know a lot of people who have been in the military and that’s another big motivator for choosing this charity.”
So far Johnny has raised £3,000 which will be split equally between the three charities. Help him raise even more by visiting his GoFundMe page: gofundme.com/f/johnny-gysin-solo-channel-swim-attempt-2022
Blind Veterans UK supports thousands of blind veterans across the country, but knows there are up to 50,000 more who still need its support to rebuild their lives after sight loss.
If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces, including National Service, and are now struggling with sight loss, then please get in touch. Call 0800 389 7979 or visit blindveterans.org.uk/support