Round the Isle of Wight Swim
According to historical sea temperature data, this is the week when the Solent plunges to its coldest, so what better time to go for a swim? I train in the sea without a wetsuit year round to keep my body acclimatised for the long distance swims that I face later in the year. On Thursday I will be taking to the water in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight to promote that I will be fundraising for a special charity based there, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust (www.ellenmacarthurcancertrust.org), who run sailing programmes for children and young people recovering from cancer and other serious illnesses.
This year I am also raising funds for the Samaritans (www.samaritans.org) , providing 24/7 support for anyone experiencing distress or despair, and Sail Africa (www.sailafrica.org), a Durban-based charity improving the life chances of disadvantaged young people through sailing. To date I have raised around £35,000 for charity through my swims including the English Channel, the Gibraltar Straits, the World Ice Swimming Championships and a 21-mile Double Windermere. This year I’m hoping to top my target of £50,000. It’s a big number but then I’ve got some pretty big swims lined up too.
First up this year is a swim round Jersey in the Channel Islands at the end of June, a total of 41 miles in strong tides followed by an attempt to become the first person to swim 30 miles around the Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides in bitterly cold waters in August. The culmination of my Five Island Swim Challenge will be a 60-mile swim around the Isle of Wight in September, something which has not been achieved in the last 29 years. I’m thrilled that Navitus Bay are backing my Isle of Wight swim, and their support means that I can prepare myself as well as I can possibly can for what will be an extreme feat of endurance.
Part of my preparation will be four weeks of intensive training in Mallorca in April and May, to build up long sea swims well before it would be safe to do so back in UK waters. This will be combined with daily pool training sessions with former Commonwealth and Olympic swimmers to increase my pace so that I can make the critical tidal gates when I’m doing my island swims.
In addition to my time in the water, I’ve also been doing lots of land-based training over the winter focusing on strength, general fitness and core work. I’ve been weight training at the Power Base gym in Portsmouth with former world champion power lifter Bronwin Carter, and also doing pilates, yoga, RPM bike sessions and I’ve just started a class called Grit, which despite only lasting for 30 minutes, is on a par with a 36-hour swim in terms of its unpleasantness.
At this time of year I spend lots of time in the pool as I can only swim in the sea for up to 20 minutes in the current icy temperatures. But my regular sea swimming sessions mean that I can build up my sea time much earlier in the season than if I stayed indoors throughout the winter months. It’s also worth if only to see the bemused looks on the faces of passing dog walkers as they see me strip down to my swimmers on the beach as they walk past in their winter woollies, wrapped up in hats, gloves and scarves.
My sea swims this week will be a bit more painful than they usually are as I’ve spent the last ten days working in Cape Town, where I was swimming in a balmy 22 degrees with the African sun on my back. I returned from South Africa yesterday after a busy time managing the PR and media for the 55-m tall ship Lord Nelson’s visit to Cape Town as part of the Norton Rose Sail the World Challenge, a 50,000-mile circumnavigation crewed by a combination of able bodied and disabled crew.
While in Cape Town I was lucky enough to train in the Seapoint Pavilion pool, which must be one of the best places to swim in the world. For a princely sum of £1.20, you can swim in the Olympic-sized outdoor saltwater pool right on the beachfront, so when you breathe to one side you have a view out across the Atlantic and to the other you have a panoramic view of Table Mountain.
And it was at Seapoint where I had one of the most memorable swims of my life last Saturday. When I arrived the sky was clearing as it had just stopped raining, and for over an hour I had the whole pool to myself, all 50 blissful metres of it. But I was not alone as a 30-strong gospel choir was poolside in immaculate colourful outfits recording a DVD, singing the most joyful music as I swam up and down. Sadly after an hour I had to share the enormous pool with two other swimmers who joined me, and eventually the gospel singers wrapped up their recording and started to disappear leaving me with just the Atlantic and Table Mountain for company.
Last weekend I was hoping to do the iconic swim from Robben Island to Cape Town, but unfortunately I didn’t have my paperwork filed with enough time to get the necessary clearances to land on the island. I met many members of the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association (www.capeswim.com) during my stay, an exceptionally friendly and hospitable lot, and I’ll definitely be back to do the swim at a later date. But on the advice of a veteran Cape Town swimmer, I won’t be packing a black swimsuit next time. When I asked him about the well-publicised shark threat he said: “Don’t worry about the great whites, they won’t bother you unless you’re wearing a black suit.” And guess what colour my suit was…?! At least that is one thing I won’ t have to think about when I’m swimming round the Isle of Wight in seven months’ time.
For updates as I prepare to swim 60 miles around the Isle of Wight, solo and non-stop, visit my website at www.annawardley.com where you can sign up for e-newsletters or follow me on Twitter @annawardley
5ive Island Swim Challenge