Swimmers take the plunge in New Year's Day swim at Stokes Bay

MORE than 700 swimmers took the plunge for a New Year's Day Swim in potentially the biggest event of its kind in the country.

By Steve Deeks
Wednesday, 1st January 2020, 1:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st January 2020, 6:50 pm

Stokes Bay was transformed into a sea of colour as hardy souls took part in Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service’s (Gafirs) biggest charity event of the year.

Hundreds of supporters packed the shore to watch a record number of people brave the Solent waters in the showpiece event to mark the start of a new decade.

Swimmers came from all over to take part in the popular dip, taking place in a relatively balmy 8C under cloudy conditions.

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

Karen Dunford, 53, and Amanda Cox, 49, raised £400 each for Macmillan Cancer Research and Dementia UK.

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Speaking after coming out of the sea, Karen said: ‘It was exhilarating. We were in for a few minutes and then got out but had to go in again because our partners didn’t see us go in.’

Amanda added: ‘Going back in was the hardest part. It goes really deep very quickly so you have to swim

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

‘I think they were lying saying it was colder outside than in the sea. It was very refreshing and good for a hangover. It was our first time but we would do it again.’

Renowned swimmer Anna Wardley, 44, who has swam around the Isle of Wight and performed in the World Ice Championships on the Finland-Russia border was taking part dressed as Wonder Woman.

‘It’s a great event and is good to support Gafirs for all the work they do,’ she said.

Swimmers enjoy the Gafirs' New Year's Day Swim at Stokes Bay in Gosport in 2020. Pictured: Anna Wardley Picture: Steve Deeks

‘It’s important people fundraise for the charity but is also important to raise awareness.

‘I love doing this swim every year. I live nearby and train in the Solent so it’s something I really enjoy. It’s such good fun.

Vital cash was being raised to support the lifeboat station, which costs around £100,000 a year to run. Swimmers were also collecting funds for 20 other charities.

Jake Robinson, community director of Gafirs, said: ‘We've had over 700 swimmers which is by far the biggest turnout we’ve had for the event and possibly the biggest New Year’s Day swim in the country.

‘We are astounded by how many people turned up, which is 200 more than usual. The mild weather may have encouraged more swimmers to take part. But it was actually four degrees warmer in the sea than out.’

He added: ‘We are grateful for all the support we have from the community. Last year we had 81 call-outs and even this morning we had an SOS in the Solent, though nothing was found.’

Mayor of Gosport Kathleen Jones also took part. Announcing the start, she said: ‘It is an amazing turnout with 3,500 spectators and 700 swimmers. Thank you everyone for your support.’