Ryan McDowell, Cumberland & Westmorland Freemason

Did you know the first person to swim the English Channel was a Freemason?

Ryan challenged himself to follow suit in his recent fundraising event in aid of the Cumberland & Westmorland 2027 Festival. As an experienced swimmer and committed fundraiser, he was keen to raise as much money as possible for two charities close to his heart by taking on his toughest swim yet. Take a look at what he had to say about his experience:

swimming english channel

The Channel Swim was scheduled for the early hours of Saturday morning, but I got a call on Friday night to say that weather conditions had changed. The swim was rescheduled for Tuesday, and the window of time allowed for the swim was reduced from 15+ hours to 14 hours, due to weather conditions. As well as being on the back foot time wise, I now had to set off at 10pm in the dark, instead of the morning.

We set off to Samphire Hoe, and began the swim once the boat blew the horn. I swam non-stop for two hours before having my first energy feed, and then had a feed break every 45 minutes after that – as well as some jellyfish stings along the way!

Six hours in, during my feed, the boat pilot instructed me to pick up my stroke rate which I tried to do, but due to being caught in a tide, I was hardly moving. At this point it was estimated that the swim could take 17 hours, and as we were only given a 14-hour window, the swim had to be called to a halt.

I was absolutely gutted that it had to end – it came as a shock to me because I thought it was going well. But this experience hasn’t changed my mind about swimming or fundraising – I absolutely want to keep swimming, and I would like to try this challenge again, but it costs over £5,000 to do the Channel Swim, so I’d have to give it some time.

Ryan McDowell, Cumberland & Westmorland Freemason

So far, the fundraiser has raised over £7,400 in total: £2,686 for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), and the rest for Make-A-Wish Foundation. I chose to raise money for Make-A-Wish because I am a father of two, so I’d like to do all I can to help children that are suffering from critical conditions as well as their families. I also chose the MCF because, as a Freemason, it is a charity close to my heart. I am proud of the work it carries out and how it can make a difference to the lives of so many people, thanks to the generosity of Freemasons. I actually organised a fundraiser in May which raised £1,000 for the MCF, and I’m confident that the money will be put to good use.

I wanted to join Freemasonry because of its focus on charity and fundraising. Since becoming a Freemason in April 2017, I have completed fundraising challenges and events every year, and I plan to continue doing so every year for the rest of my time as a Freemason, therefore, for the rest of my life!

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