IT IS one of the most hostile water challenges the world has to offer – but a York swimmer has faced it down in the name of his grandparents.

Thomas Patchett pushed himself to the limit of endurance over five-and-a-half hours to make it across the Straits of Gibraltar – which has been completed by less than 300 people – as he aimed to raise £1,000 for the Alzheimer’s Research Trust.

The 24-year-old’s motivation was the memory of his grandfather, Philip Sheard, from York, who died 13 years ago aged 88 after being diagnosed with dementia, and because both his grandmothers, Peggy Sheard and Betty Patchett, also suffer from the condition.

Strong currents and choppy waters meant Thomas ultimately swam about 25km, 11km more than he planned, from the Spanish town of Tarifa to Benzu on the northern tip of Morocco, with his parents David and Jane urging him on from a boat.

And he said: “It was such a daunting task and I’m so happy I managed to finish it.

“I graduated from King’s College London last year and I’m starting an investment banking job later this summer, so I had some time free and, as I’ve always loved swimming, I took on the challenge to raise more money for vital dementia research.

“It’s something my family are very concerned about, as my grandfather died with dementia and my two grandmothers have lived with it for a number of years. I’m shocked there is so little funding for research and I was determined to make a difference.”

Thomas, who lived in Sheriff Hutton and the city centre while in York, prepared by training in public pools and the sea, but weather conditions meant his Straits swim was postponed five days running.

“I was told to swim the first part as hard as I could because of the currents, and although it got calmer, there were two-metre waves washing over me and I was being dragged away from where I was supposed to finish,” he said.

“There were times I thought I wouldn’t make it and I was in a lot of pain at the end, but now I feel excellent. It’s a massive achievement and will hopefully help the trust.”

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