British endurance swimmer, Anna Wardley, is embarking on a Five Island Swim Challenge this summer kicking off round the Mallorcan island of Sa Dragonera. Notching up a total of 150 miles, Anna has method in her sporting madness as she aims to raise many thousands of pounds for her chosen charities – Samaritans, Sail Africa and Toe in the Water.
Diving into Balearic waters on 27 May, the 36-year-old who lives and works in Hampshire will find the climate and the Mediterranean a little warmer than she’s used to in the UK, but Sa Dragonera is by no means the easy introduction. A designated natural park off the west coast of Mallorca, the uninhabited island may only be seven miles around but the water will still be a fairly brisk 17 degrees and the choppy seas will make this equivalent of 450 lengths of a normal swimming pool (without a breather) seem rather tough. But greater challenges follow.
Island two is Portsea in Hampshire, a 12 mile swim for Anna, followed by a huge 41 miles around the Channel Island of Guernsey. She’ll then switch from south to north and tackle the Hebridean Island of Tiree, a 30 mile swim in water that is unlikely to reach more than 13 degrees. Island number five, the culmination of the swimathon, is the Isle of Wight. Only three people in total have managed to complete the nonstop 60 mile swim around the Isle of Wight and the pioneer, Kevin Murphy, who tackled it in 1971, has these words of warning: “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.” This won’t help to ease Anna’s nerves…
Anna doesn’t deny that her Five Island Swim Challenge is going to be a tricky one, “I have a gruelling training programme to make sure I’m prepared mentally and physically for what are set to be the most difficult swims I’ve ever faced” she says, but this lady has got a rather impressive CV in this field.
To date to Anna has swam solo across the English Channel, competed at the World Ice Swimming Championships on the Finnish-Russian border, in the Hellespont Race from Europe to Asia, in the 21-mile Double Windermere in the Lake District and also swum the Gibraltar Strait from Europe to Africa. Before her first Channel attempt in 2007, Anna used to occasionally notch up 40 lengths in her local pool but she quickly taught herself how to swim front crawl in order to attempt the ultimate open water swim and managed England to France on her second attempt. Over the last five years, Anna has raised £35,000 through her swimming challenges.
The Five Island Swim Challenge will take place over five months and Anna has a target of £50,000 to raise for charities. Whilst most are familiar with the confidential 24 hour emotional support service offered by Samaritans, the work of Toe in the Water and Sail Africa are perhaps less well publicised. Hampshire-based Toe in the Water is a charity that inspires injured service men and women through competitive sailing and enables them to race on equal terms with able bodied contemporaries. Sail Africa is a Durban-based organisation that offers disadvantaged children the chance to improve their life through sailing. Last year Sail Africa named their flagship vessel The Spirit of Anna Wardley in recognition of the funds she has raised for them.
To keep up to date with progress or make a donation, visit www.annawardley.com