Swim pioneer’s best wishes to naval divers

SWIMMER Brian Rann from Southsea.   Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (110367-4)
SWIMMER Brian Rann from Southsea. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (110367-4)
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David Curwen, centre, hugs his mother with whom he wa sreunited. Completing the group is his brother Keith

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THE first man ever to swim around Portsea Island has wished good luck to navy divers taking on the same challenge.

Retired bank manager Brian Rann completed the epic journey in five and a half hours 30 years ago, and after he read about the latest attempt in The News he wanted to offer encouragement to the naval team.

The 76-year-old, of St Augustine Road, in Southsea, said he only knew of one other person to complete the gruelling 12-and-a-half mile swim, but has no doubt the navy team members are up to the challenge – as long as they get their planning right.

‘It’s a difficult, dangerous swim, but if they’re navy lads I’m sure they’ll be able to do it,’ he said. ‘Though I have to say I’m not sure about where they’re starting.

‘If they set off from Gunwharf Quays like they’re planning to, it will be very tricky judging the ebb and flow of the tides.

‘It’s all in the planning, get it wrong and you’ll never get out of Langstone Harbour.’

Brian said he came up with the idea after walking and cycling around the island – and deciding to go one better.

He said: ‘I’m Portsmouth born and bred, and I just love being in the water for long stretches.

‘The only other person I know of who swam around the island was called Kevin Murphy. He beat my time the year after I swam it, but I’m not sure it’s ever been done since.’

A keen swimmer even well into his 60s, Brian also completed journeys across the English Channel and around the Isle of Wight, before an operation to remove a lung finally forced him to stop.

‘My son was also a well-known swimmer,’ he said. ‘When he was nine he completed a solo swim from Clarence Pier to Ryde Pier on the Isle of Wight, and I think he’s still the youngest person to have done that. I’ll do anything I can to encourage a new generation of swimmers.’

The navy divers are part of Project Vernon – a campaign group trying to put a monument to navy divers in the shopping centre.

They will also donate money to the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC), and their swim is planned to take place in July.

Visit vernon-monument.org for more information.