A TEAM of a dozen 12-year-olds have conquered an epic overnight swim across the English Channel, finishing as the sun rose on the beaches of France.

The Taunton School pupils swam in groups of six and set off with a celebrity team from Channel 4’s Sink or Swim.

To qualify, the children had to swim for two hours in sea temperatures of 16C and pass a stringent medical examination.

Cara Cunningham was the youngest at just 12 years and eight days old, with the minimum age being 12 years and three days.

The students completed the 21-mile, six-person relay crossing largely during the night through the choppy waters of the Channel, arriving in France at sunrise.

The swimmers chose to raise money for The Neonatal Unit at Musgrove Park Hospital, and so far they have raised almost £5,000.

Swimming alongside a team of celebrities meant the Taunton team also got to benefit from tips from the celebrities’ coach, Ross Edgley, as well as their own coach, Hamish McCarthy

Swimmer Isabel said: “It was very dark and difficult at times but the water was warmer than what we’ve been training in so wasn’t too bad.

“It was good to know that I was safe. Mr McCarthy wouldn’t let anything happen to us and the boats are with you the whole time.

“When we got to France we landed on massive rocks with waves crashing.”

The squad began their endurance pool based training in May 2018.

They undertook acclimatisation training at Wiveliscombe outdoor pool over the Christmas holidays in water temperatures of only 19C with frost all around.

Since then they have completed more than 300 hours each of training in Clevedon and Lyme Regis, as well as in the school’s two swimming pools several times a week.

Hamish McCarthy, the school’s long distance swim coach, previously led a team of students across the channel in 2016, when they finished just two minutes behind a pack of marines.

He said: “When you’re 10 years of age and you make the decision to train for the English Channel it’s aspirational.

“When you are then 12 and swim most of it at night it’s just extraordinary, a great feat of courage and resilience.

“I believe our students are one of the youngest teams to have undertaken a channel relay swim since the rules changed some 30 years ago.

Many of our pupils only turned 12 in July and August.

“Having spoken to Channel Swimming and Pilots Federation staff, they didn’t know of another team younger. It really is an incredibly overwhelming achievement.”