Imagine swimming from Charlestown to the Isles of Scilly – a total of 73 miles. That might sound tough, but it’s exactly what St Austell Swimming Club members are planning to do in their bid to make competitive swimming more accessible to all.   

The St Austell 2 Scillies Swimathon on Tuesday, October 10 will see the Sharks and water polo swimmers completing a “virtual swim” of 4,720 lengths in the comparative comfort of Polkyth swimming pool.  

Members will split the distance between them, with younger members tackling fewer lengths, but senior swimmers potentially counting up to 100.  

It’s all part of the Cash for Kids Sports Challenge, and the group is aiming to raise £1,500 towards its own running costs, which will help keep its fees down and enable more youngsters to join.  

“It’s all about encouraging the children of St Austell into our sport, those who might not otherwise have the opportunity, because they are disadvantaged, disabled or otherwise,” says club chairman Paul Quinn. The club is through to the finals of the competition hosted by Pirate FM. Up for grabs is a prize pot of £10,000, with a top prize of £5,000.  

The club’s origins date back to just after World War II, when a group of hardy water polo players – the original Sharks – began practising in Charlestown harbour. It’s now a competitive swimming organisation with up to 70 members aged eight to 18, and has produced numerous talented athletes who have gone on to represent the county and even the country. 

Membership fees pay for regular lane hire, which often amounts to exclusive use of the pool, as well as coach presence.  

“Over recent years, pool and lane fees have risen significantly, and keeping a lid on those costs is increasingly challenging,” said Paul. “We are rethinking our fundraising strategy in order to keep it an inclusive club for all to access.” 

While members have been seen shaking buckets in supermarkets, and local businesses are encouraged to sign up for sponsorship, the Cash For Kids Challenge will really make a splash.

“All the money we raise, we’ll keep, plus we could win up to £5,000 if we’re the top fundraising group taking part in the challenge,” says Paul.  

There is also a junior water polo team keeping the club’s origins alive, with plans for an adult team in the offing; and a burgeoning “masters” section for adults to swim in a lane during children’s sessions, enjoying the benefits of a lesson plan, poolside coaching and social contact similar to other fitness clubs.  

Paul has been chairman for two months, having spent three years supporting his daughters’ swimming achievements and gala participation.  

“Swimming is good for physical and mental health and wellbeing. There are so many positives across the board. It gets youngsters away from screens, and some really good social groups have grown out of the club.” 

Cash for Kids is a grant-giving charity helping disadvantaged children and young people who are affected by poverty, illness, neglect or have additional needs. Collectively it raised £20.4 million and supported 489,409 children across the UK in 2022. 

Visit the Facebook page St Austell ASC and follow the link to the Cash For Kids website.