South West Air Cadets set to swim the English Channel this week


Flight Lieutenant Ben Thompson, of 1225 (St Austell & District) Squadron Air Training Corps and Caitlin Wynne, 17, of 2196 (Trowbridge) Squadron Air Training Corps, are in a squad set to swim the English Channel to mark the 75th anniversary of the RAF Air Cadets.

Ben and Caitlin are in the second squad, which due to poor weather had its swim postponed last year, but is now ready to brave jelly fish and choppy water in the relay swim of 21 miles.

17 year old Cadet Caitlin said “I just can’t wait to get into the water – we had to postpone the swim last year due to the unsuitable conditions but now we’re hopeful we will complete the challenge. I’ve got an additional incentive to complete the Cross Channel Swim as my sister was in the team which was successful!

Caitlin has been training hard for months at Vobster Quay lake in Radstock and also with Trowbridge Swimming Club, including a night swim, building up endurance and stamina. She is also currently working towards her Gold DofE, with swimming as my physical aspect.

Caitlin said: “I am quite confident about the swim and remain very motivated. I just enjoy swimming and want to get involved in more swimming events so I shall continue my swim training for the foreseeable future.”

Adult Volunteer Ben said: “This is the bonus of living in Cornwall and being a mere 10 minutes away from the sea. There is such a difference between the pool and sea; apart from the obvious (temperature) there is a noticeable difference between the buoyancy, current, visibility, wildlife and even taste!

The Channel swim is a huge challenge both mentally and physically, particularly for the team who have had to continue the training commitment for an additional year after inclement weather made it impossible to commence the attempt in 2016. We have all been very lucky to have the commitment from the Corps Support Team and our fellow swimmers who have been a real wall of solace and encouragement. The camaraderie within the team is, without doubt, the highest I have seen in any cadet activity. I cannot wait to see the team again and complete this challenge.”

The first team who completed the 21-mile swim last year recorded 11 hours 40 minutes and have set a benchmark for this year. Though it is expected to take upwards of 12 hours in the slightly warmer waters of the month of August, thanks to a generous donation from Nidaria Technology Ltd of their famous sunscreen which includes protection against jellyfish stings, our swimmers will have added confidence in the water.

Commandant Air Cadets, Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty said: “I was thrilled and hugely impressed to see our first team of air cadets and volunteer staff swim the Channel last year to mark the 75th anniversary of the RAF Air Cadets.

However, weather conditions meant that the second squad, who had trained just as hard as the first squad, didn’t get the chance to attempt the swim.

Such was their determination and team ethos, however, they asked if they could defer the swim until this year and have been training hard in the interim.

I will keep everything crossed that the weather and tides are kinder this year and that this intrepid team will manage to swim to France, completing the original challenge in style”

The support team once again is led by Squadron Leader Sam Pearman who has been busy putting together a not too taxing programme of events for what she describes as ‘the big wait’, with some sea training to maintain fitness and team spirit.

Once again the swim will be adjudicated by an observer from the Channel Swimming Association to ensure that all rules are followed for the event to be officially recognised.

Air Vice-Marshal David Murray, Controller of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, said: “Ben is a shining example to the Air Training Corps and colleagues in his Squadron. The RAF Benevolent Fund is delighted to support the Cadets in this endeavour and we thank them for volunteering their time to support the Fund over the years. Good luck to all taking part!”

More information about the RAF Air Cadets, including how to join, can be found at

Reserve Forces