DSG Channel Swimmers

In 2001 the girls from the Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown followed the example of the Redhill School (1996) and completed a team English Channel crossing.



Their new indoor pool.


Thursday, June 12, 2003

DYNAMIC DUO: DSG sports coach Lynn Oberholzer and sports co-ordinator Kim Nel.

Next Tuesday, 17 pupils from Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown will start a triathlon in London to raise money to fight HIV-Aids. The girls already have R800 000 pledged and they are aiming for a million. They will run from London to Folkestone, swim the English Channel and then cycle from Calais to Paris. Here is how their exciting and honourable quest began ...

A FORMER pupil of DSG, Bobby-Jo Bassingthwaighte, had swum the English Channel from Dover to Calais. It is 21 miles, or 34km as the crow flies, but it is invariably longer as the swimmer has to deviate according to currents and tide. The water is cold, and the route lies across a busy shipping lane.

She spoke about her feat at the annual sports day. This inspired pupils to do it themselves, in relay, which they did two years ago.

That gave birth to the idea of completing a triathlon from London to Paris by running, swimming the channel, and cycling from Calais to Paris, and simultaneously raising funds.

At a time when there are pleas everywhere for money to help combat many problems, to the point of donor fatigue, they have succeeded beyond their dreams.

They have money in the bank and pledges of R800000. It will be placed in a trust fund to buy and renovate the rented St Raphael Centre premises in Grahamstown. It will be used as an Aids day care, testing and counselling centre.

The sports coach at DSG, Lynn Oberholzer, who took the group to the channel two years ago, is also coach of the 17 girls taking part in the triathlon. She said they had decided to reach out to the greater community by raising money to help the centre, funded since 1999 by a British group, Avert. The target was set at R1 million.

She and Kim Nel, sports co-ordinator at DSG, manager of the triathlon team, went to Johannesburg seeking sponsorship. with the "help of the old Andrean (St Andrew's) network".

Oberholzer told me in Grahamstown: "On the day we called at the offices of the HSBC banking group, it was considering its Christmas card fund social responsibility choice. It was decided to sponsor the St Raphael fund to the tune of £30000, which at the then rate of exchange amounted to R474 000."

HSBC is a worldwide group encompassing British Midland Bank. Other money and corporate pledges take the total to R800 000. The girls' expenses are being paid by parents.

Oberholzer said any surplus in the trust fund would be used to ensure the centre's viability. A herb garden would aid nutrition, and women would be taught to live positively and to learn crafts. A permanent counsellor would teach lay counsellors to work at the centre and in homes.

"What we are doing is part of an outreach programme by the girls of DSG -- being positive and caring for others, and going out to help our community," she said.

Mrs Oberholzer and Kim Nel leave with the girls tomorrow and start their run to Folkestone from South Africa House in London on June 17.

Each girl will run 20km in five-kilometre legs. They start the channel swim accompanied by two boats during a window period of June 20 to 28, dependent on weather. The length of each girl's stay in the water will be assessed according to ability, strength and conditions.

The 400km cycle from Calais to Paris will be undertaken in 20km legs and has been arranged with the help of Alliance Francaise, through DSG French teacher Julie Beer.

The girls taking part are: Kelly O'Donovan, of Dar es Salaam, and daughter of Justice and Claire O'Donovan (nee Williams), formerly of East London; Rozanne Austin, Grahamstown; Cath Ferguson, Cape Town; Louren Hird, Johannesburg; Pippa Watson, Johannesburg; Lynn Oberholzer (coach); Ashleigh Melvill, Port Elizabeth; Michelle Cross, Zambia; Georga Fane Hervey, Johannesburg; Kirsty Lapping, Cape Town; Jessica Ferguson, Johannesburg; Catherine Pringle, Bedford; Linzi Frost, Nicola Reynolds, Johannesburg; Jane Rowan-Parry, Cape Town; Laura Maree, Johannesburg; Kathleen Kapp, Johannesburg; Samantha Lowe, Grahamstown.

* Bobby-Jo is the daughter of a cousin of Gwyn Bassingthwaighte, of East London. Gwyn said Bobby-Jo was training at a gym in London when she saw a notice stating that a person who could swim 100 lengths of the pool had the ability to swim the channel. "So she trained in the cold Atlantic off Namibia, and did it," he said. "She was the first Namibian to swim the channel."

Bobby-Jo runs a guest house and coffee shop in Swakopmund, Namibia, and is a swimming coach.

Wednesday April 23, 2003

Another sporting journey for DSG

By Gillian McAinsh


Pupils practise ahead of their big swim next weekend. Picture:
David Wright

MOVE over Ironmen and women – here come Grahamstown’s Irongirls!

A group of Diocesan School for Girls pupils are on the go again – led by their inimitable fitness coach Lynn Oberholzer.

Next Saturday, April 18, the girls will swim from Robben Island to Blaauwbergstrand as part of the Big Swim of Cape school Vista Nova.

The challenge does not end there, however: the girls will then run and cycle from Stellenbosch, via Riversonderend, Riversdal, Joubertina, Humansdorp and Addo before heading home to Grahamstown – in time to join their classmates for the start of the second term of the three-term school.

The route is 940km long and each participant will cycle 206km and run 44km over April 18 to 24.

Funds raised from sponsors will go to the St Raphael’s Trust for children living with HIV Aids, a trust supported by girls in previous years.

In 2003, the teenagers who did the London to Paris Challenge collected almost R1-million for Grahamstown’s St Raphael’s Trust.

After pupils swam the English Channel in 2002 and then the relay English Channel swim and 510km cycle to Paris in 2003, the next generation of senior girls wanted to know from Lynn what challenge she had on her list for them.

“The previous challenges were all fundraisers and the idea of our fit and healthy children contributing to others who are not, is very appealing,” says Lynn.

Although they number Eastern Province swimmer Morgan Gotz among them, what sets many of the girls apart is that they are not necessarily all great sportswomen. They simply decided that they could do this as well – and most are in Grade 10 and 11.

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