Undeterred by strong currents and high waves, Thomas covered a distance of just over 15 miles (25k) in five-and-a-half hours, spurred on by thoughts of his grandparents who have been diagnosed with dementia.
This is one of the toughest swimming challenges around and due to the unpredictable hazards of the Straits, fewer than 300 people have ever succeeded in reaching the other side. The shortest distance across is nine miles but weather conditions prevented Thomas taking the most direct route. He swam from the Spanish town of Tarifa and finished on a rocky outcrop in Benzu, on the North Eastern point of Morocco.
Thomas, 24, talked about the experience and his motivation for taking on this huge adventure and supporting the Alzheimer’s Research Trust:
“I was exhausted by the end of it but it was an amazing experience! Because of the choppy conditions I had to swim really hard during the first few miles otherwise I would have drifted. The crew in the safety boat alongside threw me a nourishing drink once an hour but I was only allowed to stop for ten seconds to avoid getting into difficulties. My parents were on board shouting words of encouragement and they were lucky to get a far better view of the dolphins than I did.
“Swimming has always been a great passion for me and I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to use it positively to raise money for vital dementia research. It’s something my family are very concerned about as my granddad died with dementia some years ago and my two grandmas have also lived with the dreadful condition for a number of years. I’ve been shocked to learn that dementia research is hugely underfunded and I’m determined to help the Alzheimer’s Research Trust make a difference.
“I needed to complete this challenge whilst I had the time to do it. Having graduated from King’s College London last year, I’ll be starting my career in investment banking later this summer. It’s good knowing that I haven’t got to train for five hours a day at my local swimming pool but I’m starting to get withdrawal symptoms already!”
Miranda Mays, Community Fundraising Manager for the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said:
“This is an incredible achievement and we can’t thank Thomas enough for his determination to help us beat dementia. The money raised will pay for over ten weeks of world-class research, helping to bring new preventions, treatments and an eventual cure ever nearer.
“We are currently funding 120 promising projects across the country, including over £400,000 in Yorkshire at the Universities of York, Leeds, Hull and Sheffield.
“Nearly 11,000 people in York and North Yorkshire live with the daily reality of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. More investment into research is desperately needed and the Alzheimer’s Research Trust relies entirely on its wonderful supporters like Thomas.”
Anyone wishing to add to Thomas’s fundraising efforts can still do so by telephoning Sharon Manison at the Alzheimer’s Research Trust on 01223 843899 or online at http://www.justgiving.com/Thomas-Patchett.
For further information, photos or to speak to Thomas Patchett or Miranda Mays, please contact the charity’s Press Officer, Sue Armstrong, on 01223 843304, 07500 119514 or email email@example.com
Notes to editors
• The Alzheimer's Research Trust provides free information on Alzheimer's disease and related dementias: phone 01223 843899 or visit www.alzheimers-research.org.uk. The charity relies solely on public donations to fund its research.
• There are 820,000 people living with dementia in the UK today, with numbers forecast to increase substantially in the next generation.
• Thomas Patchett will be based in Newcastle when he starts his career, in investment banking, working for Barclays Wealth.
• Background information about Thomas Patchett’s grandparents are shown below:
Grandfather, Philip Sheard lived in York and was diagnosed with multi infarct dementia, a condition caused by a series of small strokes in the brain. He lived with this condition for 6 years and died in 1997, at the age of 88.
Grandmother, Betty Patchett, is 86 and was diagnosed with dementia in 2009. Her memory is very poor and she hears voices and becomes frightened. She receives 24 hour care at home in her flat in Ilkley.
Grandmother, Peggy Sheard, 88, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, in 2004. When she started wandering out of her house and getting lost, it was necessary for her to move to a care home in York.
• The Straits of Gibraltar can present the following hazards to swimmers:
Currents and tides: Strong currents can interfere in the advance and direction of the trip. This problem has caused many swimmers to abandon the crossing after several hours.
Sickness, vomiting and cramps: The causes of these symptoms can be multivarious, emphasising among them the exhaust fumes from the engines of the boats; swallowing sea-water; swimming into polluted waters; swimming into a swarm of jellyfish; weariness and/or the cold.
Hypothermia: The temperature of the water in the Straits of Gibraltar may vary from between 15ºC in winter to 22ºC in summer, (swimming pools are usually in the range of 28 to 32ºC). As Thomas will be making the attempt in early June, he will have to use grease to reduce this risk.
Wind: The wind is the most determinate factor in the accomplishment of the crossing. Many swimmers have had to abandon the crossing after remaining many days waiting for adequate conditions in Tarifa.
The traffic of vessels: The Straits of Gibraltar is one of the busiest maritime zones of the world, with up to 300 vessels sailing through daily, not counting the ferries which cross between the harbours on both coasts of the Straits as well as many fishing and leisure boats. This gives rise to not only a risk of collision but an inconvenience if these vessels pass very close as their bow-waves break the swimmer’s rhythm.