RGU architecture student channelling her efforts on mammoth charity challenge


Thursday 07 March 2019

A third year architecture student at RGU is preparing to take on the biggest challenge of her life, when she will swim across the English Channel for charity.

Jennifer Laffan will swim 21 miles from the southern tip of the UK to Cap Gris Nez in France during the first week in October and is undertaking the mammoth effort in aid of RNLI.

Jennifer’s love for swimming began when she was a youngster while spending time at the local leisure centre where her mum worked. The plan to swim the channel first arose while in first year at secondary school and Jennifer is now just a matter of months away from completing her childhood dream.

Jennifer commented: “Initially, I had the idea in first year of high school in PE. The idea lay pretty dormant but then for my 18th birthday I decided to take on a 10km swim - I was warned there that I would catch the bug and book a Channel slot and it turned out to be true.

“I was working as a fitness instructor abroad in summer 2017 and had a lot of time to go swimming during my days off and that’s when I decided to book a slot for this year and haven't looked back.”

Jennifer’s preparations for the swim are going well, spending lots of time in the RGU Sport swimming pool and the sea to acclimatise herself to the temperatures and build up the strength for the 12 hour challenge.

“Preparations involve a lot of swimming, I aim to do between 20 and 25km in the pool a week, working mostly on endurance but also some shorter sets to work on speed. Physically it is a huge challenge. It is likely on the day I will do over 38,000 strokes of front crawl – which is more than 1440 lengths of the RGU pool.

“The other main physical hurdle is the cold. The rules state that only a cap, goggles, earplugs and regular swimsuit can be worn. This means that I will need to be able to stay in the water for over 12 hours in 16 degrees without a wetsuit. They say the cold is the biggest part of this challenge and I think it is true!

“Mentally, it can be a tough challenge too. It is a whole day of just swimming and being left alone with your own thoughts. I am quite lucky that I can just think about all sorts of random things and keep my brain occupied - you need to be a little bit crazy for this challenge anyway.

“I also have two brothers, one who is autistic and one who is severely disabled. Thinking of them and how they face their challenges in life serves as good motivation for when I just want to give up on a training swim.”

While taking on the Channel swim, Jennifer is also studying towards her Master's in Architecture, which involves a huge amount of dedication. Her key to balancing studies with training is all down to organisation and planning.

“The key is early mornings, and organisation. The physical training is intense, I am in the water nearly every day, four or five days in the pool and two in the sea. I find that if I can wake up early, even if I am training in the evening, I can get some things done and out of the way.

“I also try to do things like prepare meals at the weekend so I don't need to spend time on it during the week. In the lead up to the end of the semester it is likely I won't have as much time to train. To counterbalance this I will have a few really tough training weeks before it (aiming up to 50km) so it means I can relax training when I need to focus on coursework.

All of the money Jennifer raises will be donated to the RNLI, a charity which is close to her heart, having worked with them as a lifeguard last year.

“I was lucky enough to work for the RNLI lifeguard service last year and got a bit more of an insight into what the lifeboat crews do.

“The RNLI teams often don't know a huge amount about the incident they are responding to. All of the lifeboat crew are volunteers and give up their time at a moment’s notice to go to sea and save lives.

“They are such a great, selfless bunch of people and have saved over 142,200 lives since 1824. I think they are more than deserving of any support we can give them.”

To find out more or donate to Jennifer’s fundraising efforts, please visit -