Linlithgow man completes English Channel swim for charity

A man from Linlithgow has successfully swum the English Channel - one of the most challenging open water swims in the world – to raise money for charity.

By Kevin Quinn
Friday, 13th August 2021, 1:00 pm
Hugh Sellars from Linlithgow on his England to France English Channel charity swim.
Hugh Sellars from Linlithgow on his England to France English Channel charity swim.

Hugh Sellars (49) completed over 21 miles of swimming on August 3, to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society Scotland and Marie Curie. He finished the swim from England to France in a time of 17 hours and 14 minutes.

To be able to take the challenge, swimmers must complete a six-hour qualifying swim, in cold water no more than 15.5 degrees Celsius.

Hugh said: “Because of Covid-19 and being in lockdown, swimming pools weren’t open until March this year. I managed to continue training by putting up a 12 foot garden pool and attaching a bungee cord around my waist. It works like a treadmill for swimming.

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Hugh Sellars from Linlithgow.

“When restrictions eased, I was able to go back to the pool again and when water temperatures increased, I was able to swim in lochs again. I also completed 10.5 miles across Lake Windermere one way, and then 21 miles both ways to help with my training nearer to the channel swim.

“My training also involved working on my technique, so I could swim more efficiently over long distances and save energy. I learned the ‘total immersion’ method, after receiving a good grounding as a Masters swimmer at Bo’ness Amateur Swimming Club a few years ago.

“I’m so relieved I was able to finish, quite often with channel swims people can complete the training and then be unable to finish or even start because the weather can turn unexpectedly.

“There are other stories of swimmers who have completed 20 miles and then been pulled out with just a mile to go because they’re just too exhausted to continue.

Hugh (right) with his charity swim crew.

“After five hours, I was starting to feel quite chilly, I could feel it in my hands. During my qualifying swim I was cold in the morning but warmed up in the afternoon, so I was hoping the same thing would happen again.

“The cold encouraged me to go faster to keep warm and thankfully the sun came back out again and I warmed up in the afternoon."

Hugh added: “I’m really delighted and lucky that I was able to complete the swim with no major incidents. I was stung by jellyfish twice but they were only very mild stings!

“My friends Dave Mackay and Tommy Fitzpatrick kindly volunteered to crew on my safety boat which was amazing, and I was also accompanied by Pam Adams from SwimMastery.”

For the swim to be recognised, rules state swimmers have to wear a standard swimming costume that does not offer thermal protection or buoyancy, and cannot touch their safety boat or another person during the swim.

He continued: “The support I’ve had has been a bit overwhelming, people have been so generous with their donations and friends of friends have been donating too. I’m absolutely delighted to have raised over £4,000 for two causes that are close to my heart.

“My sister has been living with MS for over 10 years. She was the high flyer of the family working in an investment bank but her MS symptoms meant she had to retire.

“MS affects everyone differently but for my sister it’s impacted her cognitively so her memory has been affected, she gets dizzy spells and this can cause her to fall over.

“People are a lot more aware of other conditions but with MS a lot of the symptoms can be invisible so you can’t tell what the condition is by looking at someone with it.”

More than 15,000 people in Scotland have MS – one of the highest rates in the world – and it can be exhausting, painful and disabling.

Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “A massive thank you and well done to Hugh for completing a challenge of a lifetime and his fantastic fundraising.

“Our supporters never fail to amaze me with their dedication in completing these amazing feats.

“We’ve never been closer to stopping MS in its tracks and our supporters play a key role in funding research into more and better treatments for everyone affected by the condition.”