A former army captain has become the first person on record to swim between the UK mainland and the Isle of Man, in a gruelling 46-mile challenge navigating tricky tides and the near-constant attention of jellyfish.
The next morning he was still feeling the effects. “I am exhausted,” he said. “But it was a great team effort. I’m going to take a couple of days to get my body back in shape because I am very weak and tired as you can expect.”
The idea of swimming to the Isle of Man came from his 14-year-old son Dexter, he said. Dexter is a keen competitive swimmer and when pools were shut during lockdown, the father and son swam in the sea in their home town of Fleetwood, Lancashire.
Diver’s parents live on the Isle of Man and one day Dexter asked if it was possible to swim there.
It planted the seed for a challenge that is far from straightforward. “It is very technical,” said Diver, 46. “You’ve got to work with the tides and if you don’t have people onboard who know the Irish Sea then it is pretty difficult to do. You need a boat, you need a crew and you need a kayaking team so it is difficult to get it all together.”
In a straight line the distance is 32 miles, but Diver had to zigzag across, swimming with the changing tide, which meant it became an estimated 46 miles.
Diver and his team made an attempt last year but were thwarted by a freak storm. This year they have been on standby waiting for three days of high pressure and no wind.
That came this week and Diver set off from the village of St Bees in Cumbria at 8am on Monday, arriving at Port Mooar bay at 3pm on Wednesday.
It was not a fun swim. “I got stung in the face by a lion’s mane jellyfish and then I got stung on the legs and arms about every 10 minutes. I was swimming over them all the time.”
Diver described the sting as like having instant sunburn. “It is a very strange feeling but I pretty much got used to it.”
The reason for the swim was to increase awareness of mental health issues and to raise money for the charity Healthier Heroes. So far more than £12,000 has been raised, with further donations welcome.
Diver spent 27 years in the army serving in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia and now works as a cognitive behavioural therapist.
The post Ex-soldier becomes first person to swim from UK to Isle of Man appeared first on The Guardian.