After swimming the English Channel with my sister, Hayley, in 2017 I have decided to go solo and swim the length of Loch Ness in August 2020.  This is completely out of my comfort zone for lots of reasons, not least the fact that all the ‘big’ swims that I have completed have been done with my sister. Obviously, the alleged monster is a bit of a concern too!  Jellyfish I can handle, Loch Monsters?  Not entirely sure!

I began open water swimming with my sister Hayley following the unexpected death of our younger sister Heather.  Heather was only 36 when she died and her death hit us both incredibly hard.  The water became the place where we could scream, cry and shout without anyone knowing.  It was a place to reset to our ‘new normal’.

We started off with a one mile swim, in wet-suits, in the Thames.  On completing the swim, we felt on top of the world!  We also started a tradition that has been followed on every one of our swims – laying flowers for Heather somewhere along the route so that she is with us during the swim.

Every year we have raised money for the British Heart Foundation in Heather’s memory.  Each year we have upped the distance and our fabulous followers have continued to donate to our cause, for which we are eternally grateful. 

After our two person English Channel Relay in 2017, Hayley completed her solo swim of the Channel in 2019 and I was part of her support crew.  Hayley is doing me the honour of supporting me this year along the length of Loch Ness.

Loch Ness is approximately 23 miles long, 230m deep at its deepest and it is cold!  Temperatures are likely to be around 12 degrees centigrade when I do the swim in August. I will be supported by a pilot and crew and will adopt Channel Swimming Rules, which means I will be wearing a standard swimming costume, a hat and a pair of goggles.

The swim itself will be from Fort Augustus in the South to Loch End in the North and I am hoping to spot the friendly Loch Ness Monster lurking somewhere in the depths along the way. 

Training began in earnest last year and I have continued to swim ‘skins’ throughout the winter to help with cold water acclimatisation.  The average water temperature in the lakes that I swim in is about 6.5 degrees.  Although not as cold as I would like, I am confident that my 45 minute to one hour swims in this temperature will hold me in good stead in the cold waters of the Loch!

I completed two ice miles in February 2019 and have just completed another qualifying swim just in case the opportunity for another ice mile pops up!  I've concentrated on technique in the pool over the winter so that I can try to maximise efficiency and hopefully avoid injury! 

I am definitely not built for speed so will not be looking to beat any records.  All I want to do is get from one end to the other and make my sisters proud!


I am Helen Smith on Facebook and together with Hayley we are Aitch Sea Jays too