Bassingbourn officer set for Channel swim

AN ARMY officer based at Bassingbourn Barracks is set to become the first Gibraltarian to swim the English Channel in a bid to raise cash for two military charities.

Captain Jonathan Linares, of the Royal Engineers, was due to take on the brutal 21-mile challenge from Dover to Cap Gris Nez in France on Tuesday but poor weather has pushed his attempt back.

Speaking from Dover yesterday (Wednesday), he said: “The weather is too bad and I’m going to aim to do it early next week or the weekend.

“It’s a bit of a disruption as I have quietened down in terms of my training, I have not stopped completely but I had slowed down so I wasn’t tired on the day.

“It means I now have to do training but not enough to knacker myself out.”

Only 40 per cent of people who attempt the swim manage to finish it, with the 27-year-old setting himself the challenge after finishing his deployment in the south of Afghanistan.

Following his return from the conflict zone last July and subsequent posting to Bassingbourn, Cpt Linares began training and will be raising cash for two charities whose work he admires.

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The Afghan Appeal Fund, which is run by army families and rebuilds and sets up schools in Afghanistan, and the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, which supports soldiers and their families, including those wounded in active duty.

“The Afghan Appeal Fund is a very small charity, I have worked with them before and I know the people involved,” he said.

“Having been in Afghanistan I can understand the reason and need for education and setting up schools for this because I think that is the only way we can solve the country’s problems.”

Cpt Linares, who lives on the barracks, has raised �1,643 and has done a lot of his training in the pool at Royston Leisure Centre but has also been pushing himself with cold water endurance challenges.

Despite being guided by a pilot boat he will not be allowed to touch anyone or anything in order for his attempt to be valid.

With jelly fish, traffic on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and the changeable weather, the soldier is ready for the tough challenge.

“I think only 1,200 people have ever swam the channel so I think it would be good to get in the record books as the first Gibraltarian to do it – it would be pretty cool.

“I have received so much support from friends and family but I would like to thank my girlfriend in particular as she has been particularly patient and understanding.”

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