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Channel challenge in memory of Zak

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: September 07, 2012

  • Matt Harris of St Teath ready to swim the English Channel on Friday 7th September raising funds for thr Neuroblastoma Society and Helen & Douglas House Hospice

  • FITNESS FANATIC: Matt Harris in action in the sea.

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A FITNESS fanatic from North Cornwall is one of three men who will be attempting to swim the English Channel in the next few days in aid of a charity which helps those with aggressive childhood cancer.

The three will be braving the perishing waters of the English Channel to swim the 23 miles between Dover Harbour and the rocks of Cap Gris Nez, in memory of Zak Hobbs, who, aged 7, became a victim of neuroblastoma last September.

Matt Harris, 40, from St Teath, his brother Simon Harris, 47, and Nick Hague, 42, both from the Cotswolds, are the three brave swimmers who face the tough challenge of the swim in temperatures averaging 15 degrees.

All three have completed half Iron Man and triathlon competitions, and in 2010 Simon and Matt Harris cycled from John o'Groats to Land's End and raised almost £13,000 for the Neuroblastoma Society.

Zak's mother and Matt's wife Alex are best friends.

The Channel Swim is one of the toughest challenges the three have faced to date.

"We wanted to do something in memory of Zak after his brave two-year battle with neuroblastoma, and having already done the cycle fundraiser, the swim was next on the list," says Matt.

"We were keen to do something extreme to encourage people to support the Neuroblastoma Society after Zak died last year."

There are strict rules and regulations that have to be adhered to in order to swim the English Channel. Both Simon and Nick train together at the Cotswold Lakes, and Matt trains at either Port Gaverne or Port Quin.

They all had to complete a recognised 10k open-water swim in order to be allowed to tackle the Channel.

"The training schedule is pretty tough and we're fitting in six days a week. The boat pilot informed us that due to the bad weather and strong tides we could be swimming nearer to 40 miles," continues Matt.

"We are currently in the final stage of acclimatising to the sea temperatures, as we're not allowed to wear wetsuits, just a swimming cap, goggles and trunks."

The swim is due to take place between Sunday and Thursday, depending on the weather and tidal conditions, and the first leg will begin at 2am from Dover Harbour with Nick taking the first plunge. Matt will then take over after an hour, then Simon.

This will continue until the last swimmer has hauled themselves out of the water and onto the rocks in France.

The Channel is the busiest shipping lane in the world, and the main issues facing the swimmers will be from flotsam and jetsam, jellyfish, and the cold.

"The thought of the treatment Zak had to endure during his illness will keep us going. We want to raise awareness of neuroblastoma to aid early diagnosis and help to prevent other families suffering the loss of a child," said Matt.

To support the swimmers, visit http://uk.virgin moneygiving.com/team/TeamZak and help them raise money for research into neuroblastoma.

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