Jonty Warneken: Charting New Waters in Charity and Challenge

Jonty Warneken: Charting New Waters in Charity and Challenge

Jonty Warneken, a familiar face in our community and a WOWSA advisory board member, is taking on an amazing challenge. He is launching an epic two-year charity fundraising challenge in commemoration of pivotal moments in his life. This year is a big one – it’s been 30 years since a major accident changed his life forever. But instead of holding him back, it triggered an amazing run of successes in open water swimming.

Jonty has announced an ambitious goal to raise £30,000 through a series of swims planned over the next two years. These funds will benefit three charities close to his heart. The Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust works to protect and enhance local waterways for the benefit of the public and the ecosystem. Open Country enables individuals with disabilities to access and enjoy the countryside. Candlelighters provides support to families affected by childhood cancer.

“I am a proud trustee of both Open Country and the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, while the work of children’s cancer charity Candlelighters is so crucial to so many people,” he said. “I want to help raise their profiles so more people are aware of what they do and so more people who may need their services, seek them out to enable themselves to benefit from them and also help raise funds so they can provide more services in more locations in the region and wider afield.”

Jonty started open water swimming to support his brother who was struggling with depression and had been advised that swimming would be an ideal step to recovery.

“I was a rugby player and that was what I was hoping to go on and represent my country at,” he said. “My brother decided to swim the two-mile Great North Swim and my wife said I should do it too as I have always swum as part of my fitness.

“From there, I got into winter and then ice swimming. My coach and I realised that no para swimmer had swum the Ice Mile, so I decided I wanted to be the world’s first. Then after the ice season you are looking for a summer challenge, so that then became an English Channel relay, then the world’s first North Channel all Para relay, then the first Para Solo North Channel swim. It snowballs as you meet more people who do these types of challenges and they say ‘you can do it’.”

Jonty holds three Guinness World Records for Para Distance and Ice Swimming. He has represented Great Britain in two Ice Swimming World Championships. He is also the first para swimmer to conquer the North Channel solo.

“I don’t really perceive myself as having a disability per se, I see myself as an amputee and with that comes certain considerations and limitations,” he states. “My extremely damaged right ankle is more a limitation on what I can do, not my prosthetic leg.

“Most people will go through some kind of trauma in their lives, but I believe we can all achieve things with a bit of application, commitment and probably some sacrifice and suffering – even things that most of the population couldn’t even comprehend attempting.

“I tell people to ‘surround themselves with ordinary people who do extraordinary things’ as that will soon become your norm. So, for me now, channel and ice swimming is my norm and I am just an ordinary chap from Harrogate.”

He will attempt the following series of swims and one “mystery” swim.

  • July 2024: A solo swim around the island of Jersey.
  • August 2024: He will participate with Team ‘Bits Missing’ in an attempt to be the first all-para team to conquer the Bristol Channel using the classic route.
  • September 2024: Jonty plans to swim the same Bristol Channel route solo.
  • January 2025: He will compete in the 6th Ice Swimming World Championship in Molveno, representing Great Britain.
  • May 2025: Jonty aims to complete the English Channel solo to complete the “Original Triple Crown.”
  • Post-May 2025: He mentions a plan to attempt “a series of back-to-back marathon swims” that will build toward a grand finale swim. This particular swim has only been completed once before by what he describes as an “epic swimmer.”

“It is going to be a really busy couple of years, and I also need to find the money to do the challenges as none of this is cheap and I pay for it all myself, nothing comes from the money I raise… but it is worth every penny.”

“This year will be the 30th anniversary of the crash and I want to mark that in a way that shows how far I have come, both physically and mentally. I want something positive to come out of it.”

You can support Jonty’s efforts by visiting this link