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Last month Sport England announced a £16.5 million Return to Play fund with various pots of cash to give a helping hand to organisations financially impacted by Covid-19 restrictions – an opportunity that Christchurch based Seagulls SC was certainly not going to miss. As part of the Active Together crowdfunding initiative, the club aimed to raise £7.5k in one month with a bonus of 50% match-funding (£3,750) from Sport England provided the club reached within 25% of its target.

The venture was kicked started by Seagulls Chairman David McWilliam with an arduous 96 mile county-wide bike ride to visit all the home pools of Dorset clubs in one day. Setting off on 24 October from Two Riversmeet LC at a dark and chilly six o’clock in the morning, the first stop was Bournemouth Collegiate School then on to Littledown where Swim Bournemouth was already training hard.

Pausing only for a selfie at Stokewood Road, the home of Bournemouth SC, on to Poole and then a longer drag over to Wareham where David, having arrived at the Purbeck Sports Centre, immediately looked onwards to Dorchester stopping only for a quick pit stop after 33 miles.

As the weather brightened, the ride into Dorchester involved a big but picturesque climb over Came Down, and then it was all downhill into Weymouth in view of the bay busy with cruise liners – but soon to be followed by a very blowy ride across the causeway to Portland and Osprey LC, home of Weymouth & Portland WPC and former home of Tornadoes of South Dorset.

Next came the tough section to Bridport and the B3157, with plenty of hills and the traffic far too close for comfort, where David finally arrived at his nemesis – Abbotsbury Hill, which has a brutal incline of 17 deg. “It beat me last time and it beat me again – 75 miles in and I had the shame of having to walk up it!”, said David.

Finally arriving in Bridport after 85 miles and “in pieces”, David was greeted by the welcome sight of his support driver, Seagulls’ treasurer Martin Jaszek. “My legs were shot”, said David “and I had to make the sensible call that there was no way I would make the hilly ride to Sherborne and Shaftesbury before finishing in Blandford as time and my legs were against me. We drove to those two pools and I then cycled from Shaftesbury to Blandford”.

One last ramp at Melbury Abbas near Compton Abbas Airfield was conquered before the final ride into Blandford, with David arriving just after mid-day in 6hr 12 min and all of which involved 96 miles, 3689 calories and 4228 feet/1288 metres of climbing.

Reviewing the ups and downs of the day, David said: “I am disappointed not to complete the full ride but my goal was to raise the profile of our Crowdfunding campaign and I think we did that. We have currently raised an amazing £7807 and still with ten days to go”. Congratulations David – you have done your club proud! 

With his sights also set firmly on supporting his club, and no less effort, Seagulls’ Edward Bell (shown right with his New Forest Rattler achievement award) took to his bike on 24 October as well to participate in the annual New Forest Rattler Endurance Weekend, and bravely opting to attempt the mid cycle circuit route of 82 miles alongside his dad. Despite the very poor weather conditions, the 12-year-old successfully completed the route and within the allotted time, raising £370 from family and friends for the club. An amazing achievement – well done, Edward!