Exmouth’s Olly to swim Irish Sea with Richard Branson

A 33-year-old Brixington man is celebrating winning an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim the Irish Sea with Richard Branson and a shoal of celebrities.

Primary School teacher Olly White, of Brixington Lane, beat more than 20 swimmers to bag one of two public places on The Swim - a celebrity relay team challenge aiming to raise �1million for Cancer Research UK.

Olly, who in 2005 successfully swam the Channel in less than 12 hours, secured his place on The Swim after taking part in gruelling swimming trails – including a two-hour swim in the sea off the coast of Brighton.

Next month married Olly will be rubbing shoulders with Sir Richard Branson, Ronan Keating, Pamela Stephenson, TV presenter Jenny Frost The Gadget Show host Jason Bradbury and Olympic swimming medallist Steve Parry – who are all tackling a 56-mile stretch of the Irish Sea from Holyhead to Dublin.

He is appealing for people to sponsor his efforts.

Olly, who teaches at Kentisbeare Primary School in Exeter, said: “I’m exhilarated but I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.

“It was my wife Celine’s idea to put me forward as she’s a massive Ronan Keating fan!

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“I was slightly reticent at first so I can’t quite believe how far I’ve come. I keep looking at The Swim website thinking ‘I’m actually going to be taking part in that!’”

It is expected to take The Swim team around 40 hours to complete the challenge.

Each team member will be swimming for up to an hour at a time, often in treacherous conditions.

Olly, learned to swim as a child growing up in Tavistock, said he was more than ready for the challenge.

He said swimming challenges set by himself in 2003 when he undertook a 21-mile two-way Windermere challenge, swimming the English Channel in 11hrs 43 minutes in 2005 and being the first home in this year’s Exmouth Fairway Buoy Swim, stood him in good stead.

Olly said: It’s ironic because I was never the strongest swimmer as a child but these challenges have made me a much fitter, stronger swimmer the older I’ve become.

“I know the Irish Sea is notoriously rough and unpredictable and we’ll be swimming at night, but I’m very excited at the prospect and feel it’s something I’ve been working towards for a long time.

“I can’t wait to get out there with Sir Richard Branson, who let’s face it, is the master of challenges and Steve Parry who has always been a hero of mine.”

Olly, who is a member of the Exmouth Swimming and Life Saving Society, said raising funds for Cancer Research UK was paramount after the disease hit youngsters where he taught.

He added: “Two of the pupils at my school lost their mum to cancer and we all saw how the disease can tear families apart.

“They were only seven and nine at the time and everyone at the school and in the community rallied around for them, so this is a charity close to our hearts.

“I know I’ll get tremendous support for this from the parents and kids. It’s just fantastic to get the chance to do something so amazing for such a worthwhile cause.”

Simon Murie, founder of Swim Trek, The Swim’s official event partner, said: “Olly is s a strong swimmer, and has a great attitude which is sure to lift the team’s spirits when the going gets tough.”

Karen Davis, for Cancer Research UK, said: “Swimming 56 miles across the Irish Sea will be physically and emotionally demanding – even in a relay team. So we’re calling on people in Devon to show their support for Olly and The Swim team.”

• Sponsor Olly at www.virginmoneygiving.com/OllyWhite