In the UK, one case of cancer is diagnosed every two minutes. Over 375,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed between the years of 2016-2018, an average of approximately 1,000 cases each day.* It is estimated that over three million people in the UK are currently living with cancer and this figure is set to rise to 3.5 million by 2025, 4 million by 2030, and 5.3 million by 2040.** All staggering statistics.
With a greater focus on prevention and prediction, cancer can be caught and treated earlier, which will dramatically improve survival rates. Mortality rates for all cancers reached a peak in the 1980s; over the last decade the mortality rate has decreased by one tenth (10%) in the UK.* Looking ahead, this number is projected to decrease further by 6% in the period between 2023-2025 and 2038-2040. Advances in treatment and greater public awareness, which has led to earlier diagnoses, have led to the continued decrease in mortality rates.
The English Channel Charity Swim
It was with this in mind that Assura Protect Directors, Charles John Donley and Matthew Turner, and their aptly named team, Ocean’s 8, set out to swim the English Channel in August 2022 with the goal of raising funds for Cancer Research UK. Approximately 21 miles, a water temperature of 18C, crossing the busiest shipping lane in the world, and several jellyfish encounters later, the team arrived on France’s shores having raised £85,000.
It was no small challenge; With the first English Channel swim completed in 1875 by Captain Matthew Webb, an English swimmer and stuntman, there have only been just under 12 successful attempts at swimming it year. To put that into perspective, less than half the number of people who have climbed Mount Everest have successfully sum the English Channel. One of the most challenging long-distance swims in the world, it is 34km in a straight line, although the distance swam can vary between 35-56km due to the Channel’s tides. No wetsuits are permitted; only a swimming hat, googles, and a costume are to be worn. The challenge for the team was to prove that normal people can try and outperform expectations placed upon them, and individually achieve what they set their hearts and minds on, despite the odds.
In late 2021, a date for the charity swim was confirmed, the Pilot Boat booked, and an extensive training regime created. Many months of exhaustive training in cold waters, such as rivers and seas, commenced for Charles, Matthew and the team in preparation for the monumental task ahead of them.
At 5:45am on the morning of August 22nd, 2022, the team set of from Dover in calm conditions, headed towards France. Navigating the risks of encountering marine animals such as pilot whales, sharks, dolphins, seals, and numerous jellyfish, they showed determination, grit, and stamina as they tackled the waves and made steady progress along their designated route. With changeovers happening on the hour, Charles, Matthew, and the rest of the team who weren’t swimming, were able to rest, eat and build their energy ahead of their allocated legs of the challenge.
Supporters were able to follow and track team on the Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation website, and just after over 11 and a half hours of continuous swimming, Charles and Matthew tackled the final leg of the journey and led the team home onto French soil, completing one of the most challenging of feats and raising thousands of pounds for Cancer Research UK.
* Cancer Research UK, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics-for-the-uk#heading-Zero, Accessed August 2023.
** Macmillan Cancer Support, https://www.macmillan.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/research/cancer-statistics-fact-sheet, Accessed August 2023.