A Skegness amateur triathlete says she is ready for her toughest challenge yet - to help a brave little girl get the treatment she desperately needs - when she swims across The Wash in a few days time.
Claire Draper, will be attempting the 14-mile trial on Monday in aid of four-year-old Jocelyn Leaver, who is fighting a rare childhood cancer, making her the first woman to swim across the Wash in more than 40 years.
She will be starting the nine-hour Swim for Jossie at Hunstanton Old Beach in the morning, aiming to arrive at Gibraltar Point early evening.
Accompanying her will be a support team, including her coach Lee St Quinton and paramedic Mark Smith.
Claire, Director of Finance at Fantasy Island, said: “The challenge is to raise money for dear friends of mine who are trying to secure treatment they need for their beautiful and brave four year old daughter who is fighting high risk neuroblastoma; a rare childhood cancer.
“Originally they needed to raise over £750,000 to fund the immunotherapy and the drug trial in the US. However, two weeks ago the drug company that supplies the immunotherapy halved the cost, so it was approved by NICE and made available on the NHS.
I would love to hit the £10k mark, still a drop in the ocean (excuse the pun), compared to what they need in total, but it all helpsClaire Draper
“This is amazing news and Jossie has already started her treatment.
“It now means they only have to pay for the drug trial in the US, which has excellent results in preventing the cancer from returning. The amount they need for this is in the region of £350,000. With this in mind, I would love to hit the £10k mark, still a drop in the ocean (excuse the pun), compared to what they need in total, but it all helps.”
The Standard last spoke to Claire in June after a practice swim from the wind farm back to Skegness Beach.
Since then her training increased substantially, with at least four swims a week of two hours each, or more.
Claire said: “In the pool, this was pretty tough, and by that I mean extremely boring, as this meant anywhere from 200 to 320 lengths a session, so I started travelling to Lincoln more regularly to swim at Activities Away in South Hykeham.
“The journey is about 1.5 hours each way, so doing this regularly has been a big time commitment, but its really helped with my preparation.
“I also went to Alton Water near Ipswich to take part in an organised 10k swim event; my first at that distance, which took me 3.5 hours and was my longest swim at that point. This was particularly tough and highlighted to me how difficult the Wash swim was actually going to be.
“During the 10k swim I picked up a shoulder injury, and this has really hampered my training for the last five weeks, with me having to take extended rest periods and reduce the distances I was training at.
“However, we have also managed to fit in two additional practice swims - one which replicated the final two hours of the swim and one replicating the first three hours. Both swims were invaluable in terms of learning to swim with the boat, learning to feed in the water, and understanding the tides and the environment better.
“During the practice swims we have been followed by seals, stung by jellyfish - and gained some interesting tan lines on my forehead, calves and wrists.
“Aside from the training and swims, we have also been working really hard to promote the swim and raise as much money and awareness for Jossie as possible.
“In doing this, we were introduced to the owner of Huub, the leading wetsuit provider in Europe and sponsors of some very major triathletes including the Brownlee brothers. This was particularly exciting for us as amateur triathletes, but completely overwhelming having met Dean Jackson, Huub owner, and his team, who have been incredibly supportive and generous and have backed not only the event but the cause.
“To help me as much as possible, Huub provided me with one of only two prototype female wetsuits in the world - the other one of which was given to Jess Learmonth - one of the UK’s best female triathletes.
“The wetsuit has incredible buoyancy and flexibility properties and new technologies which have helped relieve any undue stress on my arms and shoulders given the length of the swim. It is an incredible piece of kit.
“Huub introduced us to, and organised a day with, Professor Greg Whyte, who is an incredible athlete and has trained many celebrities for some very difficult and extreme charity challenges - David Walliams, Davina McCall and Greg James to name but a few.
“Lee and I visited him in London at his training ground where he looked through our plans (having swum the Channel himself a number of times, it was important to us for him to look through the route and suggest any improvements), gave us some extremely valuable advice on fuel and motivation and also shared with us some other clever tips.
“We then had a few hours with him swimming in the River Thames where he helped with my technique and gave further advice...an amazing day for us as fans but invaluable for the swim. It is heart-warming to know that they have taken on a group of strangers like us to help us achieve something special for Jossie.”
Claire says she has been overwhelmed by the support she has received through her Facebook page, Swim the Wash for Joss, and comments on her Just Giving page. “It will no doubt give me a much needed boost during the tougher parts of the swim. My friends and family have helped me to raise awareness and generate donations, and my husband has helped me plan my hours of training around both a full time job and looking after our daughter.
“Special thanks should also go to the Anglia Hotel in Holbeach who have held a fundraising event after seeing the BBC Look North piece and have £2,000 to contribute to my just giving account. Overall, with pledges made my total currently sits at £7,500, way above my original £5k target. I will be pushing the donations over the next 10 days, because to get in the water and be anywhere near to £10k would be a phenomenal motivator.”
Joss’ mum said: “We are overwhelmed by the continued kindness and support from the people of Skegness. In particular, the challenge that Claire is about to embark on is incredible. Not only the swim itself, but the hours of training, planning and preparation takes such a huge amount of skill, commitment and determination. Though, if anyone can do it, Claire can.”
To support her visit her JustGiving page here