Swimming 70k for mental health

January 30 2023

White curve
Rob West, Guy Bowring and 13 others took on the Geneva 70k swimming relay to raise money for Charlie Waller. Rob shared the highlights with us.

First of all, we asked Rob what exactly the Geneva 70 is and who took it on. He explained: "Lake Geneva is 70km long, more than twice the distance of the Channel. Only eight solo swims have ever been completed, compared to more than 2,000 for the Channel. And there have only been 12 successful relay swims, so I think that speaks volumes for the scale of the challenge!

"Our challenge, in three teams of five people, was to swim the length of the lake, with three other head-to-head swim challenges leading up to it. Our purpose was to raise money for four charities we have personal connections to."

The reasons Rob and Guy chose to raise money for the Charlie Waller Trust were intensely personal.

Rob said: "The motivation was that we have lost people to suicide - Guy's cousin and his wife's cousin - and that Charlie was a friend of mine both at school and at university.

"Supporting the Trust has become a family affair for us, with my father and my wife involved too.

"It's been great to see how the Charlie Waller Trust has grown beyond being about Charlie. Mental health is at the forefront and I'm glad we can help directly by raising money for the Trust."


Rigorous training

A tough challenge requires tough training. How did the teams prepare themselves for the swim? "It was very tough," says Rob, "not just because of having to fit it around work but also because it needed to be cold water training. It was alright for Guy because he loves cold water!

"Our first challenge was to swim the 5km relay in the Royal Docks in April, where the expected water temperature was around 12 degrees centigrade. We started our cold water training six weeks before that, but began our swimming training 12 months prior. That meant by Christmas everyone could swim at least a couple of kilometres."

Team 'Ladies of the Lake' celebrate their successful swim

Team 'Ladies of the Lake' celebrate their successful swim

The teams were lucky to have great conditions on the day of the swim. "In fact," said Rob, "the training was harder than the actual event because the atmosphere and team encouragement on the day made a huge difference.

"Even so, by the time we'd swum the length of the Channel, we still weren't even halfway! It took us 27 hours but it was good fun; I almost felt guilty for raising money!"

Come up with a mad idea!

The swimmers raised over £25,000 for the Trust - an amazing total. We asked Rob what he'd say to anyone considering a similar challenge:

"Come up with a mad idea, find some friends and go for it.

"If you want to get fit, take up a charity event - it's the motivation that will get you to do the training.

"Communications from the charity help too as they make you realise you're a part of something special."


The Broker Buoys team victorious at the finish

The Broker Buoys team victorious at the finish

Top tips

Finally, we asked Rob if he had any top tips for people embarking on a fundraising challenge:

"Having a WhatsApp group was good as we could see what everyone was doing. Being part of a team is a big element of it - it kept it fun, kept us motivated, and it was good for us mentally too."

The triumphant Baker Boys cheering their success

The triumphant Baker Boys cheering their success

Why not take a challenge?

We can't thank Rob and the team enough for their amazing support.

If you'd like to take on a challenge and raise money to support our work, please get in touch.

We'll give you plenty of support and fundraising ideas.

Natasha Austen
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