Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Swimmer completes island challenge

Anna Wardley, 37, is attempting to swim around the Isle of Wight

An endurance swimmer has become the first person in nearly 30 years to swim solo, non-stop, around the Isle of Wight.

Anna Wardley completed the challenge in 26 hours, 33 minutes and 28 seconds - more than three hours ahead of schedule.

The 37-year-old, from Gosport in Hampshire, was welcomed by cheering crowds as she touched Ryde Pier, the point where she set off on Friday at 10.31am.

Heather Ewing, spokeswoman for the challenge, said: "There was a big crowd for her and the fastcat delayed its departure for her and everybody was on top of the ferry applauding and whistling.

"After she was helped out of the water she shouted a big thank you to everybody.

"It's a great achievement for her."

Only three people have completed the feat, with the last successful attempt in 1984.

One of the toughest points of the swim was as she approached St Catherine's Point when the current pushed her back more than a mile but a decision to head inshore allowed her less tide to swim against and within an hour she was making forward progress again.

Miss Wardley said before setting off: "It's been nearly 30 years since this challenge was last successfully completed, so I'm under no illusions how tough it will be.

"There will be a time when I'll be swimming against the tide through the night, almost on the spot for hours. I'll also see the sun set and rise, and we'll be racing against the clock to reach critical points to beat the tide.

"However, just knowing people are thinking of me and willing me on will definitely help when the going gets really tough, and it's a huge boost knowing that I'm raising money for such fantastic charities.

"I've made no secret that this will be the pinnacle of my challenges and I actually can't wait to start swimming."

Miss Wardley carried out the swim under the rules of the British Long Distance Swimming Association wearing just a standard swimming costume, goggles and a swimming cap.

It was the culmination of her two-year Five Island Swim Challenge raising funds for the Samaritans, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and Sail Africa, with her target set at £50,000.

She had already successfully completed circumnavigations of Dragonera off the coast of Mallorca (10km, 6.2 miles), Portsea Island in Hampshire (21km, 13 miles) and Jersey in the Channel Islands (66km, 41 miles).

But bitterly cold water, lion's mane jellyfish and foul tides forced her to abandon her attempt to become the first person to swim around Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, 20 miles and more than 16 hours into the 30-mile challenge on August 13 this year.

Sean Parsons, communications manager at Navitus Bay wind park which is sponsoring her challenge, said: "Navitus Bay is proud to be supporting Anna as she embarks upon the final leg of the Five Island Swim Challenge. We have been consistently impressed by Anna's determination and the outstanding achievements she has made during her previous swims."

During her swim, Miss Wardley was supported by her team on a range of craft including Ribs, motor boats and kayaks.

Kevin Murphy is officiating the attempt on behalf of the British Long Distance Swimming Association. He is known as the King of the English Channel on account of the 34 times he has swum the Channel, and he was the first person to swim around the Isle of Wight in 1971.

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