Stokes Bay New Year's Day swim is cancelled for 2021 due to coronavirus

BOSSES at a lifeboat station are pleading with the public to dig deep and support them after they were forced to scrap a popular New Year’s Day swim.

Wednesday, 30th December 2020, 7:49 pm

Thousands of people normally crowd the Gosport & Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (Gafirs) lifeboat station at Stokes Bay to watch hardy swimmers take the plunge each year.

But with tier four coronavirus restrictions in place, ordering people to stay at home, leaders behind the annual spectacle have been forced to axe it.

The annual swim usually raises around £5,000 for the life-saving organisation and will leave a huge hole in the charity’s funding.

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Swimmers enjoy the Gafirs' New Year's Day Swim at Stokes Bay in Gosport in 2020. Picture: Ian Hargreaves

Gafirs community director Jake Robinson said: ‘We are really sad to have to cancel the popular New Year’s Day Swim, but the health and safety of the public must come first.

‘We know the famous Gosport tradition will be sorely missed, but hope that supporters will instead dig deep and make a donation to Gafirs instead.’

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During the past year, volunteer teams have carried out 105 rescue operations locally and saved the lives of 10 people.

But it costs £400 in fuel and maintenance every time the lifeboat is launched and, as Gafirs relies entirely on local donations to keep its lifesaving boats afloat.

Jake added: ‘This year has been exceptionally busy for Gafirs as many people stayed in the UK because of the pandemic and enjoyed their summers by the coast.

‘We had a record 19 callouts in 12 days at one point after the first lockdown as people flooded to the beaches.’

Gafirs crews have also helped Gosport Borough Council this year as part of its Covid response, delivering food and medical supplies to hundreds of vulnerable people.

Gafirs volunteers gave nearly 9,000 hours assisting 686 people on the water too – but that has come at a time when expenditure has rocketed for the charity.

A major refit of the main lifeboat was needed at the start of the year leaving a deficit of £30,000 in funding.

‘While we have been busier than ever on the water – and on land assisting those in need during the lockdown – our funding has plummeted,’ Jake said.

‘At a time of year the local community would usually be donating to us in person at our New Year’s Day Swim we’re asking those to think about making a donation on our website or signing up to our Lifeboat Lotto to help fund our lifesaving work.

‘Every penny goes directly towards helping local people in trouble.’

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