EXHAUSTED but over the moon Anna Wardley emerged from the Solent after completing a once-in-a-lifetime swim around Portsea Island.
The 36-year-old from Gosport was cheered on throughout by supporters, braved bitterly cold water, had an escort from the police, and was able to take in all the magnificent sights of Portsmouth.
Finishing with a huge sigh of relief in blazing sunshine yesterday, she crossed off the second stage of her Five Island challenge by swimming the 13 gruelling miles non-stop in seven hours, 20 minutes and 50 seconds.
She is the first person to complete a solo swim around Portsea Island recognised by the British Long Distance Swimming Association.
At 10am yesterday she made her way down to the shore of Eastney beach to begin her challenge, and when a klaxon sounded, she was off.
Anna swam anti-clockwise round the island, speeding off north through Langstone Harbour with the currents at her back, before tacking the challenging – and unpleasantly murky – stretch to the north of Portsea, passing under the Eastern Road bridge.
Then she swam past Tipner Point to begin part of her journey she described as ‘absolutely spectacular’ – Portsmouth Harbour.
‘It was amazing,’ she said. ‘A once-in-a-lifetime swim.
‘There were people gathered on top of Customs House cheering me on. There was a Brittany Ferry which came close and you get to appreciate the sheer scale of those ships.
‘I even got a police escort and I could see the people on board the ferries were waving and cheering.
‘And all the sights were fantastic – Warrior, the dockyard, the Spinnaker Tower – and the weather was just perfect. I couldn’t have imagined anything better.
Anna said taking part in such a challenging swim around her home city meant a lot to her.
‘It’s really special,’ she said. ‘Often I’m abroad doing things like this with a really small team. But I’ve got all my friends and family and my dog here.
‘And I’ve had so much support from everyone. There were Samaritans banners all along the way, cheering me up and keeping me going.
‘I wasn’t looking forward to going under the railway bridge but they were there and it was a big boost.’
She added: ‘I has been hard work but this was the end of six months of planning and I’m just so happy.’
Anna is swimming a total of 150 miles around five islands to raise funds for the Samaritans, Toe in the Water and Sail Africa.
To donate or to read more about her progress, visit annawardley.com