Henley Mermaids launch new Swim21 Challenge

Swim 21 miles in 21 weeks for £21: Laura Reineke and the Henley Mermaids have epic swims planned in the English Channel and Loch Ness this summer, and they are asking you to take part by swimming 21 miles, too. 

Laura Reineke and fellow Henley Mermaids Joan Fennelly, Fiona Print, Susan Barry and Jo Robb have announced a new swim challenge – Swim21 -– launching this week as part of efforts to raise £1m for the refurbishment of Henley’s Trinity Hall.

“I am training to swim the English Channel solo in August (21 miles, in a straight line), while my fellow mermaids Jo, Joan, Susan and Fiona will be swimming the 21-mile monster-filled length of Loch Ness in August,” Laura told us, on her way back from South Africa, where she was training with [water safety and supported swimming specialists] Big Bay Events. 

“I completed my six-hour qualifier and did a number of great training swims in the ocean, and rivers. Training is a lot; it’s relentless, but I am enjoying it. I think I’ve managed to get over my fear of choppy seas, too, one of the things I needed to work on.”

Creating a community hub

The Henley Mermaids are raising money for Henley Community Hub, the refurbishment of the dilapidated Trinity Hall on Harpsden Road. “The Henley Community Hub will become a home for Henley Music School and a flexible community space for a range of user groups, with counselling rooms, a recording studio, performance space and flexible space for community groups to use,” said Laura, who is leading the project. “The aim is to decarbonise the building and ensure it is fit for the next 100 years.

The Henley Mermaids have raised more than £90,000 over the past three years for different charities. And now Laura’s fellow Mermaids are excited to be embarking on another set of challenges, this time focusing on a charity closer to home.  “We desperately need wonderful, warm and flexible community spaces and we Mermaids are proud to be supporting the Community Hub,” said Joan. 

Get involved with the Swim21 Challenge

The Mermaids are inviting residents, community groups and families to get involved and participants are being encouraged to swim 21 miles between now and August to raise money for the ambitious project. In total, they are trying to raise £1m.

“We’d love people to get involved and it’s so fun and simple,” said Laura. “Just fill in the form, pay £21, swim 21 miles at your own pace between now and August, log your swims and get a badge. It will be a fantastically fun way to build swim fitness and raise money for a worthy cause.”

For people who want a bit more of a challenge, they can swim the full 21 miles over a few days in a relay – just like a Channel Relay. “The great thing about this is it’s so flexible,” said Laura.

Find out more about joining the Henley Mermaid’s Swim21 Challenge; entries close on 21st April. Follow the Henley Mermaids on Instagram @henleymermaids. Find out more about Henley Community Hub.

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Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.