Zim swimmer braves English Channel to raise funds for school

jacquiZimbabwean-born long-distance swimmer Jacqui Smith (28), who now lives in the United Kingdom, braved the icy waters of the English Channel this weekend to raise funds for a struggling Zimbabwean school. (Pictured: Jacqui Smith)

Jacqui rose to the challenge of swimming the 33km expanse of choppy, 13-degree water in just over 12 hours and is believed to be the first Zimbabwean woman to have done so.
Previously described as The Everest of open water swimming, the vast expanse of sea between the British port of Dover and the French port of Calais is a massive challenge even for an experienced long-distance swimmer.
The success rate for solo swims is only around 50 percent. Jacqui, a mother-of-two, dedicated a full year to training for the channel swim, while working and caring for her husband, Mark and their two young boys, Josh (5) and Alex (3).
Her sister Vicky, who lives in Johannesburg,could not contain her excitement at the news.
I am just so proud of her! she said. For somebody living in a foreign country with two kids and giving up so much of her time to do something like this, it is a really remarkable achievement! It just shows she has so much passion for Zim.
A born and bred Zimbabwean, Jacqui relocated to the United Kingdom six years ago due to the escalating economic turmoil back home but continues to do all she can to support those in greatest need.
Jacqui undertook the cross-channel swim to raise funds for Tichakunda pre-school at Hatcliffe on the outskirts to Harare, which is being assisted by the UK-based WeZimbabwe project.
The congratulatory message on the WeZimbabwe website reads: .. Words cannot begin to describe the tremendous efforts Jacqui has made with this and the amount of support Mark and her two boys have given her throughout the process. It has been an incredible effort
One of the first priorities at the school for WeZimbabwe and their partners in the Kuyamura Trust, is the sinking of a borehole to provide clean water for the children.
A fundraising event held by Jacqui four weeks prior to her channel swim raised an extra 2 000,00 which will contribute significantly to the project. To date she has raised 5 000,00 in total.

Vicky says that Jacqui would love to visit Zimbabwe to deliver her donation personally to the school but cant afford to buy a ticket herself. It would be great if people would contribute to a ticket to send her to Zim to deliver the money.

. Every stroke she did was for another meal or book for the children, she told Vicky.

The swim:
Set off Sunday morning at 4.45 to meet the boat just to have a “look”! We didn’t expect Jacqui to swim that day as forecast not good but when we saw from the cliffs there were no white horses we guessed it was on. Had packed everything and prepared all of her half hour feeds of Maxim, the high energy sports drink. The boat took us to Shakespeare beach, near Dover Marina, and Jacqui had to swim ashore. Once she was on the sand they blew a fog horn and she set off into fairly smooth water. She swam for almost 8 hours covering a very good distance and then suddenly the winds got up and the waves got rough as hell. The boat was tilting over almost into the water and we were afraid we would fall on top of Jacqui and kept shouting to her to keep further away from the boat. Quite scary. Although she kept up the same speed of stroke all the way, the waves slowed her down quite a bit.
Her humour never faltered though and she made jokes occasionally, shouting out “here comes some food`’ as she hit a heap of spaghetti-like seaweed.
She made it to France, a beach called Cap Blanc Nez, in 12 hours 35 minutes.
Her sister Danielle swam the last 100 metres in with her and then back again to the boat. We were all so thrilled but no time to celebrate as the boat set off again straight for Dover. It was the most horrendous journey ever with the boat rolling the whole way and my two daughters were both seasick, Jacqui more from fatigue and so on. There was nowhere to hold on while we sat in the cabin and we kept being thrown around, clinging on to the bucket for dear life!!
Mark, Jacqui’s husband and I, were fine and tried to celebrate with a Cider, but it didn’t quite seem right!!
I should say this was the hardest day in my life, and I was not the swimmer!!!!
Jacqui’s background
She was a Zimbabwe swimming record holder, a breastroker and at 14 took part in the All Africa Games. She trained with Kirsty Coventry, a distant relative, but at 17 acqui gave up swimming and went to England. She is now married with two little boys of 4 and 2 and has a full time job and so it was a pretty tough mission over the last year or so to train every evening and over weekends in open water and swimming pools in the Winter.
She is the first Zimbabwean woman to cross the Channel. `Approximately 1050 people have managed the crossing since 1875 I think, when a man called Webb did it breakstroke, drinking Port!

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