Give Me Five ... Anna Wardley Challenges Five Island Swim

Give Me Five … Anna Wardley Challenges Five Island Swim

Starting in May, 36-year-old Anna Wardley will attempt five circumnavigations around Dragonera in Mallorca, Spain, Portsea in Hampshire, UK, Jersey in the Channel Islands, Tiree in Inner Hebrides, Scotland and the Isle of Wight in Solent, UK.

Anna explains about her Five Islands Swim Challenge, “I selected these islands as they are all challenging in different ways.

Whether it be the cold and strong currents for Tiree, the distance and complex tides for the Isle of Wight or the busy shipping channels that I need to negotiate for Portsea, it will be a challenge. The swims increase in distance with each one so each one helps me to prepare for the next one both mentally and physically

The 30-mile swim around the island of Tiree off the west coast of Scotland is unprecedented. “Although all five swims are challenging in their own right, the swim around Tiree will be particularly tough due to the powerful tidal streams and the extremely low water temperature, which barely rises above 13°C even in the height of summer. I’m not underestimating the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead.”

Significant challenges must be overcome throughout the five-swim series, “I believe Tiree and the Isle of Wight will be the hardest. Tiree is extremely challenging in terms of the strong tides and low water temperatures. It is going to be a painstaking wait for the window to make the attempt because it is known as one of the windiest places in the British Isles. I first got the idea to swim round Tiree a couple of years ago when I was working there on an international windsurfing event. I was swimming there every day in the crystal clear waters of the white sandy beaches, and started thinking about whether it might be possible to swim around the island. According to the islanders nobody has attempted it before. At the end of last year, my support team and I” decided it was feasible and safe to make an attempt as long as we get the right conditions.”

Following the footsteps of such greats as Kevin Murphy around the Isle of Wight, Anna is optimistic. “I will be swimming in warmer and more familiar waters as I live right opposite the island near Stokes Bay, but the sheer distance and the challenge of making the critical tidal gates will be all important. I am all too aware that I will be swimming against the tide for extended periods and I’m psyching myself up to deal with that, and at least with it being the last swim in the series I’ve got the rest of my life to rest afterwards.”

Her team will come from all over. “I will have my core support crew at all the swims, but I will also be using local pilots including Charlie Gravett in Jersey and local fishermen in Tiree. I am lucky to have close links with the marine industry due to my work, so the swims around Portsea and the Isle of Wight I will be organising my own support craft and crews. I am also spending time speaking to people who have successfully completed the swim both as swimmer and pilots, including solos and relays, to learn what I can from their experiences.”

Her Five Island Swim Challenge, covering 150 miles over a five-month period, culminates in September with an attempt to complete a non-stop 60-mile swim around the Isle of Wight, which is likely to take around 30 hours. Kevin who completed the first circumnavigation around the Isle of Wight in 1971 said, “A swim in excess of 24 hours is among the toughest in the world, and there aren’t many people who can do it. Getting through The Needles is something of an adventure especially in the dark and the sea can be very rough off St Catherine’s point. No solo swimmer has ever managed to get to Bembridge to catch the tide, which means we’ve all had six hours of swimming against it going nowhere before being able to make progress again.”

Anna will start her challenge in a 7-mile swim around the uninhabited island of Dragonera, which is a protected natural park off the west coast of Mallorca on May 27th. Next up in June is a 13-miler around Portsea Island in Hampshire. A month later, Anna travels to the Channel Islands to swim 41 miles around Jersey.

Her challenge is a part of Anna’s Turning the Tide campaign to raise £50,000 for the Samaritans, a 24-7 support for anyone experiencing distress and despair, Toe in the Water for re-inspiring injured service personnel through competitive sailing, and Sail Africa for improving the life chances of disadvantaged young people in Durban through sailing.

Anna was awarded a Community Chest grant to fund the purchase of a sea kayak for her support team to paddle alongside her during training. Community Chest Grand Judge Chrissie Pollard commented, “I meet some extraordinary people through the Community Chest but Anna is almost certainly the bravest. She swims in all winds, weathers and sea states to help other people and the Samaritans, Toe in the Water and Sail Africa are such worthy causes. For someone who took up serious swimming five years ago Anna has achieved so much. Her safety is paramount and the new kayak will make sure her trusty helpers are also safe as they travel alongside her.”

Her series plan is as follows:

Dragonera in Mallorca, Spain on 27 May 2012, 7 miles at 17°C
Portsea in Hampshire, United Kingdom on June, 12 miles at 13°C
Jersey in the Channel Islands between 5-8 July, 41 miles at 16°C
Tiree in Inner Hebrides, Scotland in August, 30 miles at 13°C
Isle of Wight in Solvent, United Kingdom in September, 60 miles at 16°C

What is perhaps most remarkable is that before her first English Channel attempt in 2007, Anna was only an occasional pool swimmer, logging only a kilometer twice a week in her local pool.

Photo courtesy of Simon Jessop.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones