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Submariners beat the elements to swim the Channel and raise £6k for mental health charities

24 June 2022
Four Royal Navy submariners completed the ‘Channel splash’, swimming from England to France for mental health charities.

Captain Elton Sharkey, Commander Richard Cragg and Lieutenant Commanders Callum Fraser and Hugo Mitchell-Heggs picked the longest day of the year to attempt their relay, striking out from Samphire Hoe in Dover and aiming for Cap Griz Nez, 21 miles away.

Each man spent an hour in the water, then three resting as his colleagues took their turns. By adhering to the rules of speedos only (despite a water temperature of just 14 Celsius, making June one of the colder months to attempt the crossing), swim cap and goggles, the team achieved an official Channel Swimming Association certification. 

Commander Cragg got to the team moving at 0327, setting a cracking pace in the dark. After his hour of swimming, Captain Sharkey took over at sunrise before handing over to Lt Cdr Hugo Mitchell-Heggs and Lt Cdr Callum Fraser to each complete their first round of one hour shifts each. 

The water temperature dropped as they ventured further into the channel, with constant wind and a stronger-than-expected current fighting them and generating some choppy and unfavourable conditions which didn’t help keeping a steady pace. Add a few thousand jellyfish and crossing one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world to really spice things up.

The team worked hard, and by their third hour stint each they had good sight of the French coast, but a strong easterly current coming from Cap Gris Nez point prevented them from touching distance of this peninsula… so close yet so far!

to break through the final stretch of choppy waves and a final push onto the Plage de Wissant, 17 hours and 11 minutes after leaving England, having collectively covered 22½ miles. 

The team was one of eight which had struck out from beneath the White Cliffs that morning. Only four made it to France.

The submarines say they owe their success to their relentless teamwork and a robust process of self-care, helping each other out of the water between shifts, drying off, warming up and piling in the calories for their next hour-long swim shift, three hours later. 

They were also very much motivated by the hundreds of messages of support from family, friends, colleagues and a much wider community that support the Royal Navy. 

More importantly, they’ve raised more than £6,000 for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, where all funds raised will provide Mental Health and Wellbeing support to serving personnel, veterans and their families.

You can still donate at this link:  Elton Sharkey is fundraising for Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (


Photos credit to HMS Oardacious.

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