Belfast Telegraph

Branson out of stars' charity swim

Sir Richard Branson has had to pull out of a gruelling charity swim across the Irish Sea after a fire destroyed his luxury Caribbean home.

Ronan Keating, former Atomic Kitten singer Jenny Frost, Strictly star Pamela Stephenson, gadget guru Jason Bradbury and Olympic medal-winning swimmer Steve Parry, will still brave the treacherous currents, ferries and even sharks to complete the relay to raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK.

The challenge will see them set off on Wednesday to swim 56 nautical miles (65 land miles) from Holyhead, in Anglesey, North Wales, to Dublin, Ireland.

The team, joined by two experienced "super swimmers" and two members of the public, are expected to take up to 40 hours to complete the challenge.

As well as swimming long hours through the night, they will also have to dodge wind farms and cope with tidal variations which mean the swimmers could end up covering a distance of up to 70 nautical miles (81 miles on land).

Virgin boss Sir Richard, 61, watched in horror last week as his Necker Island paradise home went up in flames. Actress Kate Winslet was among 20 people who fled The Great House on the island as it was razed to the ground on Monday.

His daughter Holly Branson and her shipbroker fiance Freddie Andrews were planning to get married on the island in December and despite the fire the businessman has insisted the event will still go ahead.

Boyzone star Ronan, 34, injured his hamstring during training for the swim but said he cannot wait to dip his toes in the water.

"I'm not a strong swimmer, but the motivation to learn and raise money for Cancer Research UK was enough for me to sign up," he said.

"The public's support is going to be essential in helping us achieve our goal of raising £1 million for Cancer Research UK's life-saving work."

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