Two women will swim across the English Channel next month in memory of a younger sister who died of a sudden heart attack.

Helen Smith, 50, and Hayley Brant, 47, have embarked on various swimming challenges every year for The British Heart Foundation, in a bid to “cope” since their younger sister Heather died at the age of 36 just before Christmas in 2009.

Ms Smith, who lives in Evans Avenue, near North Approach, Watford, explained that the sisters rediscovered a lost passion from their youth after taking a dip in open water five years ago.

They started with one-mile challenges but then upped the ante with 14km challenges in Coniston and Windermere in Cumbria.

She explained each swim holds a “personal meaning” for the pair, as they always leave a bouquet of flowers in the water half way through for Heather.

Ms Smith said: “Heather was an incredible woman who gave so much of herself to so many and her untimely passing from a heart condition we knew nothing about was a shock to us all- especially as it happened on the table while she was getting a routine check-up at hospital.

“When we started out, we had no idea how far it would go - our goal was merely to survive. We could both swim, a good start, but we had no knowledge about swimming in open water. On speaking to some sporty friends, we gathered as much information as we could about what to expect and what we would need.

“Our swim across the Channel will be between 30 and 50 miles but we cannot tell how long it will take. We both work full time jobs but every weekend we go to Dover and train in the harbour with a Channel Swimming group who are also training for long distance challenges. It’s really changed our lives.”

Ms Smith added she knew Heather would be “proud” of her sisters.

She said: “They say that real life begins at the end of your comfort zone and every year we have committed to raising the bar.

“The support and generosity of all of our family and friends has been tested to the maximum, yet they still continue to believe in what we are trying to achieve, both in memory of Heather and in raising awareness of the work and research that the British Heart Foundation do.

“Every day, we know that Heather is watching and that she is immensely proud of us.”

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