Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Extreme swimmer Anna Wardley sets island challenge

Anna Wardley
Image caption Anna Wardley has already swum the English Channel and the Straits of Gibraltar

An endurance swimmer from Hampshire is embarking on a charity challenge around five islands in five months.

Anna Wardley, 36, from Gosport, is planning to swim around Jersey, the Isle of Wight and Portsea Island.

She is also set to tackle Tiree in the Inner Hebrides and the uninhabited island of Dragonera, off Majorca in Spain.

She described the prospect of swimming a total of 150 miles (240 km) as "an absolute feat of endurance".

Ms Wardley gave up her job in public relations three years ago to embark on a series of extreme swims to raise £50,000 for three charities.

In that time she has swum the English Channel and the Straits of Gibraltar as well as taking part in the World Ice Swimming Championships in Finland.

The five-month island challenge, which starts in May, will include attempting to be the first person to swim around the Scottish island of Tiree.

With outlying reefs surrounding the island and strong currents, she said she planned to swim the approximately 30 miles (48 km) in chilly temperatures without a wet suit.

During the 41-mile (66 km) swim around Jersey she will be escorted through the island's strong local currents by an experienced local pilot.

'Very significant challenge'

Training is a combination of pool and gym work, with 30 minutes a day spent in the Solent at Stokes Bay to keep her body acclimatised to the shock of swimming in cold water. That will build up to eight or nine hours a day during the summer.

With sea temperature at around 9C, Ms Wardley said: "It's starting to feel warm to me - it's certainly warmer than it was last month."

Professor Mike Tipton, of the Department of Sports Science at the University of Portsmouth, said: "Cold water immersion is one of the greatest stresses that the body can be exposed to.

"It follows that what Anna is about to attempt represents a very significant challenge and, if she manages to complete the swims, it will constitute a great achievement. It is certainly one that could not be undertaken without years of preparation and training."

She described the swim around the Isle of Wight as "the big one". The 60-mile (96 km) route could take 30 hours - potentially through two nights - as she tries to take advantage of the strong tides around the island.

"It sounds ridiculous, but getting in the water and doing the swim is actually the easy part when you look at all the preparations, the hours of training and the pain," she said.

"Knowing the impact I'm having on the people who benefit from the three fantastic charities I'm raising money for is a huge personal motivator."

She is raising money for the Samaritans in both Portsmouth and her home city of Sheffield - her father took his own life when she was nine.

Durban-based sailing charity Sail Africa, which last year named their flagship vessel The Spirit of Anna Wardley following her fundraising efforts, is also due to benefit from her feat.

She is also supporting for the Toe in the Water charity, which helps injured servicemen enjoy sailing.

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