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29th February 2020
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Granite Transformations COO Danny and pal Bernie attempt Cook Strait world record
Danny Hanlon, chief operating officer of the Trend Group's international Granite Transformations home improvements franchise, will celebrate his new year relocation from the UK headquarters in Tunbridge Wells, Kent to the corporate head office in Miami, Florida, in an unusual - not to say hazardous, fashion.
He will form part of a two-man relay, charity fund-raising team attempting to set a new extreme swimming record for crossing New Zealand's 26km (16 mile) wide Cook Strait, notorious for its immense tidal flow, icy water temperatures and occasional encounters with sharks.
Australian-born, naturalised Briton Danny (40), who has his family home in Whitstable, will form a marathon swimming duo with 60 year old Bernard Stone, a retired specialist in satellite insurance from Tunbridge Wells. Bernie is an experienced Channel swimmer and previously made a record tandem swim across the Strait of Gibraltar, before completing a two-man relay swim with Danny over the 7k Dardanelle Strait in Turkey.
"We wanted something big to challenge ourselves and the Cook Strait is considered one of the most treacherous open water swims, because the current is so strong and they say one in six swimmers encounters a shark when attempting a crossing," says Danny. "I believe in setting ambitious goals that really push you, otherwise you don't know what you are really capable of achieving."
As chief operating officer of Granite Transformations, Danny certainly has commercial challenges ahead in 2016, taking over the management of the North American showroom network and implementing a major rebranding initiative that will mean an international name change, to 'Trend Transformations'. Yet even over the holidays and despite a hectic workload, he was training hard with Bernie for their record attempt, clocking up 35km in the pool each week, including a stint at the London Olympics Aquatic Centre.
Bernie takes his inspiration from Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to swim the English Channel: "On his memorial stone is the inscription 'Nothing great is easy' and we use this quote to motivate us for the swim, as well as raising money for our charities," he says. "Very few people are successful at completing the Cook Strait swim, because of the strong currents and cooler waters, so Danny and I looked at our individual strengths and decided, as we are both relatively fast swimmers, our best chance was as a two-man relay team, attempting to set the quickest time."
Targeting a time of around 8 - 9 hours, Danny and Bernie would be the first relay pair to complete the crossing between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Apart from attempting to swim at a faster pace than most solo swimmers, the main challenge for both men will be getting back into the support boat after each hour-long session, piling on layers of clothing and keeping the body's core temperature warm enough to sustain exposure to the next hour's open water swimming, in just a swim cap and trunks.
They will be expertly supported in their record attempt by Cook Strait legend Philip Rush, a two-time double crossing swimmer and triple English Channel crosser, who is also a highly qualified navigator and guide. Danny and Bernie haven't met Philip yet and Bernie has not even been to New Zealand before, but their guide has already chosen a suitable tide window for their crossing between 17th and 20th January, (one of only four times a year when a crossing is feasible) and has arranged a fishing boat and inflatable to pilot the guys across and provide essential medical and nutritional support. The aim is to leave Wellington harbour at 5.00am and sail to the official starting point, ready to commence around 08:00; if Danny and Bernie swim at a consistent 3.5kph, as they have done for many hours in practice, this should see them complete the crossing in 8.5 hours, setting a world record for a two-man relay.
With expert advice on hydration and conditioning from Silvermere Strength & Fitness, jointly founded by Bernard's son, Sam, the guys will load up with complex carbohydrates before the swim, then feed only on the support boat and drink a litre of specially formulated liquid for rehydration between relay legs. Offering moral support from the other side of the world will be Danny's wife Susan, who despite being married for less than a year is fully behind the venture, although according to Danny she asked him to update his will!
Both men are swimming for charity, hoping to raise around £10,000 from friends, business colleagues and the extreme swimming community. Danny has chosen local Sevenoaks children's hospice Demelza, whose staff he met on a Dale Carnegie course and was touched by their dedication; while Bernie is supporting the Alchemy Charitable Trust, which supports and aids West Kent and Sussex residents facing exceptional need. Details can be found on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com and donations can be made via www.justgiving.com
15th January 2016