ROB STARR from The Starr Trust on defying illness to swim the English Channel solo and raising money for a cause close to his heart. Interview & Photograph Julia Horbaschk.
The idea of training for a charity swim came to me two years after I lost my dad to cancer. In 2008 I set up The Starr Trust in his honour. The charity helps young people fulfil their potential in sports, art and education by providing grants, training and mentoring opportunities. Growing up in Brighton & Hove, I see the sea every day and thought the English Channel would make an interesting challenge.
Team Starrfish (my relay team) made the crossing in the wind and rain on 8 August 2012, in 12 hours 55 minutes, raising more than £75,000 for charity. The 5th anniversary of The Starr Trust last year coincided with the publication of my book, From Starr to Starrfish – a personal account of training for and swimming the crossing when the odds are against you. As a sufferer of rheumatism, osteoporosis and Crohn’s disease, I was once told I’d never be fit enough to swim solo.
The low point of the 21-mile swim was the rigorous training regime; particularly the eating. Eating and I are not friends, possibly due to my Crohn’s disease. The highlight has to be floating at the end of Brighton Pier at 7am as the starlings dance around and the sun rises up from the east – indescribable.
Sea-swimming is part of my daily routine so I know the shoreline and the shelves in the water well. On a calm day, swimming pier to pier can be glorious. You can see all the way to the bottom and often it’s a carpet of starfish.
I’ve made some amazing friends at Brighton Swimming Club. That familiarity gives me comfort, especially in rough conditions. These days I also love to walk on Hove seafront with my wife and three children. Being by the sea calms me and gives my life perspective.
From Starr to Starrfish is available on Amazon. All proceeds go to The Starr Trust. Visit starrtrust.com.
"Sea-swimming is part of my daily routine so I know the shoreline and the shelves in the water well. On a calm day, swimming pier to pier can be glorious. You can see all the way to the bottom and often it’s a carpet of starfish."