Courtesy of Roger Finch.

Despite experiencing a stroke, Roger Finch has been training arduously six days a week for his return to False Bay sometime from December to February when the weather gives him an opportunity to join Annemie Landmeters (in 1989 from Belgium), Steven Klugman (in 2004 from South Africa), Carina Bruwer (in 2006 from South Africa), Barend Nortje (in 2007 from South Africa) and Ned Denison (in 2012 from Ireland) as successful False Bay swimmers.

But he still remembers his extremely close friend (“more like my father”) David Frantzeskou of Varne Ridge who passed away last year. “Back in 2013, David took me aside and said we need to left this place to another level. We need to help more swimmers who arrive here to swim the English Channel and know nothing about it. We need a swim camp to provide more assistance.”

He remembered those words as he had traveled to Zurich to swim the Lake Zurich event, then flown straight to New York and swum the Ederle event, then from New York to Dover to look after his swim partner Dr. Otto Thaning on his English Channel attempt which didn’t happen due to weather. But he stayed on to crew for Bob Needham and then flew back to Johannesburg and resumed training.

Three days later, he took a call from Dr. Thaning with another chance to go back to Dover so he was back on an airplane and in Varne Ridge within a week. But again weather denied the good doctor. “During this stay, David spoke to me again about establishing a camp to educate swimmers about the English Channel. I think that we can do it with Tracy Clark with David said was perfect.

And so The Varne Ridge English Channel Training Camp was born. It was David’s dream to help swimmers coming to Dover. It is a non-profit camp with excess funds going back into the NSRI as two recent channel swimmers who died on their attempts were in residence at Varne Ridge at the time. The camps took off really well and we now have two a year in Dover: one at the beginning of the channel season and one at the end of the season.

We then had a lot of interest in swimmers coming out to South Africa to swim the Robben Island crossing, so Tracy and I set it up. We held the first one in February which was a massive hit with the swimmers from the UK and Finland.

Each day while waiting for conditions, the swims were set up the coast past The 12 Apostles and Lion’s Head. Each day the swimmers encountered dolphins, sun fish and seals. On the Robben Island crossing, there were three whales swimming next to the swimmers. Funds from the South African swim camp will be going to Learn to Swim and Every Child A Swimmer programs.

One of our lady swimmers became the oldest woman ever to swim Robben Island, Ellery McGowan.”

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