Higher-level apprentice Jake takes on big swim challenge

10 February 2020 | Apprentices, College News

A higher-level apprentice who receives his off-the-job training at City College Plymouth is gearing up for the challenge of a lifetime. 

Jake Roberts, who is studying for a Foundation Degree in Naval Architecture, was selected to be part of a six-person team that will attempt a relay swim across The Channel in May for the charity Aspire, which supports people living with spinal injury. 

The 26-year-old shared the story of how he discovered open-water swimming as part of World Suicide Prevention Day, when he explained how he turned to the sport after suffering years of poor mental health. 

At 17, Jake was headed for Cambridge while also training for the World Rowing Junior Championships and dreamed of competing in the University Boat Race. At the same time he also took on a couple of volunteering roles, including helping at St Luke’s Hospice, but – understandably – found it too much. The years that followed involved a couple of university changes and several job-swaps, all of which took their toll on Jake’s mental health, and he spiralled into a depression. Plagued by anxiety and suicidal thoughts, Jake turned to drugs as a coping mechanism. 

Things began changing for the better when he met his partner – now his fiance – and the pair now have a young child together. However, even when things are going well, it can be a challenge to ward off the negative thoughts and to break the cycle, so Jake looked at other ways to improve his mental health, and was supported by his employer, Babcock. 

Jake said: “I came across the benefits of open-water swimming in a book and, given my background in rowing, I thought it sounded fun. It took me a couple of weeks to feel confident to swim in the sea; however, a friend took me under his wing and said he’d accompany me.”

Jake now trains four to five times a week, which helps with maintaining his wellbeing and keeping the negative thoughts at bay, but will also prepare him for the challenge ahead that will see each member of the team swim for one hour at a time across what is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, against unpredictable currents.

Jake and the rest of the team are looking for people to sponsor them in this challenge and have set up a Justgiving page. You can support Jake by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/channelswimaspire

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