Long-distance swimmer prepares for Channel crossing fundraiser – despite fear of jellyfish

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Karen Gallichan, whose son has autism, left Jersey yesterday in preparation for the challenge and is next week due to swim from Dover to Cap Gris Nez on the north coast of France.

Ms Gallichan is aiming to raise £10,000 that will be used to create an Autism Jersey bursary which will aim to improve the quality of life or enhance employment prospects for
adults on the autistic spectrum.

In preparation for her Channel-swimming challenge, which will happen sometime next week dependent on tides and weather, Ms Gallichan swam around the Island last summer.

Ms Gallichan, who completed that swim in 11 hours and five minutes, making her the fastest local female swimmer in 2017, said: ‘It was the longest swim I have done, but it’s quite different to the Channel [swim] because you can see land the whole time – and there’s an advantage of knowing where you are, recognising the landmarks and the bays.’

Last September she had an introduction to Channel swimming when she joined an American relay team which needed a replacement swimmer and completed three one-hour legs for them.

That challenge also introduced her to swimming in the dark – something she will have to do at some point during her swim, which is likely to take 20 hours.

But looking ahead to the challenge, it is the thought of jellyfish that is worrying her.

‘I’m terrified of them,’ Ms Gallichan, manager at the Autism Jersey Boutique, said. ‘I was doing the round-Jersey when I was stung for the first time, on the face.

‘But, you know what, I can’t give up on my challenge because of a fear of jellyfish. They say that 80 per cent of Channel swimming is mental and 20 per cent is physical. But I think that’s probably where my strength lies. That comes from maturity, and the experience and resilience of having a child with autism, because you have to keep going, don’t you? You have to keep fighting for what your child needs.’

Ms Gallichan said that sponsorship from Santander International had taken a ‘huge financial’ pressure off enabling her to concentrate on her training and fundraising.

‘Swimming has changed my life,’ she said. ‘If someone had said to me five years ago I’d be swimming the Channel in my 50th year, I’d never have believed them.

‘This will be a day out of my life and I am sure it will be tough in places, but it’s only one day, and it’s nothing compared to what my son had to cope with and hopefully it will raise a lot of money to help adults with autism do worthwhile things.’

To sponsor Ms Gallichan visit justgiving.com/fundraising/karengallichan.

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