A Watford woman has said she is “ready to meet Nessie” ahead of swimming across Loch Ness in memory of her sister.

Helen Smith, 54, started open water swimming seven years ago after her younger sister Heather died unexpectedly, aged 36, of a heart attack during a routine procedure.

Mother-of-two Helen said: “Losing Heather hit both me and my other sister Hayley, 51, incredibly hard and we both struggled with the suddenness of it.

“The water became the place where we could scream, cry and shout without anyone knowing.

“It was a place to reset to our ‘new normal’.”

Watford Observer: Helen SmithHelen Smith

The two sisters decided to raise money for the British Heart Foundation and gradually increased their distances – eventually completing a two-person relay across the English Channel in just over 19 hours.

Helen has now decided to “go solo” and swim the length of Loch Ness in Scotland – which is 22.5 miles long and 230m deep.

Temperatures are also likely to be around 12C to 15C when Helen does the swim.

“I am hoping to spot the friendly Loch Ness Monster lurking somewhere in the depths along the way!” she added.

Watford Observer: Swimming with swimsuit, cap and gogglesSwimming with swimsuit, cap and goggles

She will be supported by a pilot and crew and will adopt Channel Swimming Rules, which means wearing a standard swimming costume, a hat and a pair of goggles.

Helen, who is head of audit a Taylor Rose MW, said working from home during the pandemic has allowed her to regularly get to lakes and pools.

She also recently finished an “epic” training weekend in the Lake District swimming across Ullswater and Windermere lakes, which she completed in six hours 25 minutes and 10 hours respectively.

“Training will continue until August 21 when I fly up to Scotland with my team ready to meet Nessie,” Helen added.

The swim will take place between August 21 to 28, the exact date depending on the weather.

If you would like to sponsor Helen, visit her Gift of Hope page here.

Watford Observer: Loch Ness lakeLoch Ness lake