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Swimmers chill out in New Year dip

Hundreds of hardy swimmers have braved the icy waters of the North Sea for a traditional New Year's Day dip.

A sudden, overnight upturn in temperatures gave some encouragement to the 200 volunteers who gathered on the beach at Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, today.

And in the south hundreds of hardy swimmers tried to overcome their hangovers by taking part in a bracing swim the Solent in Hampshire.

Those taking part in the North East soon found out that an unseasonal 13 degrees C air temperature on the coast did not guarantee tropical conditions in the North Sea itself.

This did not stop some making the best of the day in Hawaiian costumes.

The annual event, which is organised by the town's Panama Swimming Club, has become more and more popular each year and today it attracted swimmers of all ages, many in fancy dress.

Another 300 people watched the antics from the relative warmth of the shore.

A record total of 351 people disrobed and dived in to the Solent for the 28th annual Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service's (GAFIRS) swim.

Several thousand people thronged the shoreline to watch the swimmers, some of whom wore fancy dress, immerse themselves in the cold waters at Stokes Bay.

The mayor and mayoress of Gosport signalled the start of the swim, which followed an exercise by the local lifeboat and a Coastguard helicopter demonstrating their life-saving skills.

Organisers said many of those who took part were raising money for charities, with more than 20 good causes set to benefit from the event.

Colin Davey, the treasurer of the GAFIRS, said: "It was a bit breezy but I think everyone enjoyed it. There were 351 people who took part.

"With the large number of people who turned out to watch, I don't think there is a bigger New Year's Day swim in the country.

"Some people wore fancy dress, including a Spider-Man and a Beatnik. And there were three or four people who barely had anything on."

Divers, lifeboats and lifeguards in canoes were placed in the waters as a precaution but the swim passed successfully without incident, officials from GAFIRS said.


From Belfast Telegraph