British expat to swim around ‘The World’ to spread awareness of genetic illness

32-year-old takes up challenge to raise awareness for an incurable illness

Kate Willoughby with her nephew
Image Credit: Supplied picture
Kate Willoughby with her nephew, who is suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal genetic illness.
Gulf News

Dubai: A 32-year-old British woman living in Dubai plans to become the first person to swim around The World, Nakheel’s man-made development of 300 islands off Dubai’s coast, with the aim of helping to fund research into a genetic, incurable illness that affects millions of children.

Kate Willoughby, from Surrey, England is taking up the challenge in order to raise awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a fatal genetic illness which her nephew suffers from. Surrey resident, six-year-old Harrison Smith, was diagnosed with the condition in 2011 and is said to have a short life expectancy which will unlikely exceed his late teens or early twenties. The illness affects one in every 3,500 male live births globally, and has a 100 per cent fatality rate.

“When I learnt about Harrison’s Duchenne diagnosis I was determined to do something to bring the disease into the spotlight and raise some funds towards finding a cure,” said Willoughby who works at Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Willoughby will attempt to swim The World on Wednesday, November 21, when tide changes are expected to be at their minimum. The swim will approximately take 12 hours and will cover 25km within The World’s perimeter wall which encompasses the 300 islands.

“It’s great to be able to use a landmark that everybody has heard of to raise money for an illness that few people know anything about,” said Willoughby.

During her swim, Willoughby will not be allowed to touch a boat or any other person, but a support boat providing water and food will be at close distance to her.

The exact route of the swim has not been revealed yet, however swim The World will end at Lebanon Island, the first development of The World. Willoughby’s friends, family, and supporters, including her nephew Harrison will be there, to greet her at the finish line.

Despite not swimming since she was 14, Willoughby is determined to complete the challenge and has enlisted Jay Benner, UAE national swimming team coach.

“Swimming The World will be a huge challenge but I’m training hard and have excellent support,” she said.

While open water practice swims are scheduled for September, Willoughby is not wasting her time and is currently swimming 27km a week over four sessions.


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