Hundreds brave cold in GAFIRS sea dip

LETTER OF THE DAY: Hope I don’t end up in an ‘uncaring’ care home

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A FRESH start to the New Year it certainly was!

While hundreds of spectators huddled around in winter coats, scarves and gloves, 314 scantily-clad people braved the icy waters of the Solent.

The GAFIRS dip

The GAFIRS dip

The annual New Year’s Day dip at Stokes Bay went without a hitch, but there were plenty of shrieks as the daredevils splashed around in the sea.

Among them was 54-year-old Chris Lawrence, from Gosport.

She took part in memory of her nephew Adam Lawrence, who died last year from cancer at the age of 19.

‘I thought it was brilliant,’ she said.

143662_GAFIRS_01/01/15''Swimmers take part in Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service annual charity New Year's Day swim.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (143662-411) PPP-150101-140828003

143662_GAFIRS_01/01/15''Swimmers take part in Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service annual charity New Year's Day swim.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (143662-411) PPP-150101-140828003

‘He would laughing up there thinking of me, so that’s what kept me going.’

The event is organised by Gosport & Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (Gafirs), an independent search and rescue team covering the Solent and Portsmouth that had 104 call-outs in 2014.

Three lifeboats, four divers, five canoes and a helicopter were on stand-by in case they were needed.

People donned all manner of outfits for the event, including penguin suits, bikinis and mankinis.

Dressed as Wonder Woman was Lisa Hennen, 43, from Lee-on-the-Solent, who was raising money for the Make A Wish foundation.

‘It was freezing but good fun,’ she said.

Jim Bevington, 79, a retired pharmacist from Lee-on-the-Solent, wore a wetsuit as he took photographs of his wife Margaret Bevington, 77, and Melanie Coulbert, from the Inner Wheel Club of Gosport.

Kay Alan, from Elson, who works at Gosport tourist information centre, was raising money for Martin Halford, who has multiple sclerosis and needs an operation.

‘You find it a lot warmer when you get in,’ she laughed.

As well as Gafirs, around 20 charities will benefit.

Keith Thomas, chairman of Gafirs, said: ‘We normally collect around £2,000 on the day, so it’s a great start to our fundraising year to help our work.’