[Latest update 05.45 14th August below.] British endurance swimmer Anna Wardley, 37, is to swim solo and non-stop around the Hebridean island of Tiree today [Tues 13th August] as part of her Five Island Swim Challenge – estimated as taking around 15 hours in cold waters and – as the British Long Distance Swimming Association dictates – in a swimsuit and cap, not a wetsuit.
Anna will start her 30-mile swim – the first time anyone has attempted the feat – at 0400 BST (0300 GMT) from the ferry pier at Gott Bay.
She will swim around the island in a clockwise direction aiming to finish back at the Gott Bay pier sometime after 1900 BST (1800 GMT) later on Tuesday.
Anna will be braving 6ft-long lion’s mane jellyfish, dozens of 9m-long basking sharks, five-ton Minke whales and bitterly cold 14C water during her world record attempt.
Wildlife, including common and grey seals as well as a number of species of whales, is in abundance in the crystal clear waters around Tiree and Anna has been taking advice from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society on what to expect and how to avoid distressing the creatures in their own environment.
She will be swimming under the rules of the British Long Distance Swimming Association, which means only wearing a swimsuit, cap and goggles and not making contact with any vessel during the swim. The swim will be witnessed by three independent observers.
Timings once the attempt is underway are hard to guess due to its unique nature. The following are estimates, however should be used in conjunction with the support boat’s Yellowbrick GPS tracker, which will pinpoint Anna’s location every ten minutes (see below).
Anna’s ETAs at vantage points during the round Tiree swim are (all times BST):
- Gott Bay pier: 4am
- Hynish: 6am-7am
- Up west coast: 9am-1pm
- North coast: 1pm-6pm
- Gunna Sound: 5pm-7pm
- Finish at Gott Bay pier: 7pm-11pm
Times are subject to change, depending onweather conditions, tide and Anna.
Support team afloat
Anna will be escorted around the island by swim co-ordinator Corinne Gillard aboard a 22-ft support boat, and support crew member, Matthew Pryor, in a 4.5-metre sea kayak.
Tiree will be the fourth of the swims on her Five Island Swim Challenge, following successful circumnavigations of Dragonera (Spain) in May 2012, Portsea (UK) in June 2012 and Jersey in June 2013.
The challenge will culminate with a solo and non-stop swim around the Isle of Wight, which is expected to take in the region of 30 hours, at the end of September 2013.
Anna is raising funds for the Samaritans, Sail Africa and the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust through her Five Island Swim Challenge. To date she has raised £42,000 through her swimming challenges since taking up the sport six years ago, and has set a target of raising £50,000.
You can also follow Anna’s progress live with Yellowbrick GPS tracking here – which will update every ten minutes.
08.00 update 13th August [All updates are coming in to us direct from Anna Wardley’s support team.]
Anna’s start was slightly delayed this morning getting all the kit she needs into her support boat. The logistics for this swim have been particularly complicated and Anna always says, “The swimming is the easy bit.” She’s swimming under British Long Distance Swimming Association rules, so wearing just a swimsuit, one hat and a pair of goggles. No wetsuit. The water temperature is 14C.
The delay did mean she didn’t have to face her main fear for long: coming face to face with a lion’s mane jelly fish, with its six-foot long tentacles, in the dark.
Although the island is only ten miles long and five miles wide, there are many reefs and rocks to avoid and her route will be longer so she can give those obstacles a wide berth. The tides, particularly through Gunna Sound towards the end of her swim, are tricky.
10.00 update 13th August
Anna Wardley has been swimming since 0519 today so is a little over four hours into her record attempt to become the first person to swim around Tiree.
Conditions are pretty good but at 14C the water is cold and she is feeling it. It’s about four degrees colder than she’s been training in in the Solent. The only thing to do is swim harder to keep warm, but with what could potentially turn out to be a 30- hour swim in prospect, pace is everything.
Anna’s core temperature is being monitored by a ‘posh pill’ from Portsmouth University. Having swallowed it, it transmits her core temperature to monitoring equipment on the boat. The data will then be passed on to the university for use in their own studies.
As well as staving off the cold for that long, how do you keep up your concentration for 30 hours? For Anna, the feeding stops every 30 minutes are how she breaks down the massive challenge in to manageable chunks. She tells me she now has an inner clock that can tell almost to the second when the whistle is going to be blown for her to stop and take on more fuel.
Weather-wise Anna and the support team have broken cloud and sunny intervals. Tiree is one of the sunniest places in the UK so we’d be unlucky not to get some sunshine! The wind is about 5 knots from the north west and boat skipper Corinne Gillard tells me the sea state is slight with a low westerly swell.
Lots of interest from the seals in Anna’s swim – they’ve been coming in really close to get a good look at the person invading their territory – and she’s spotted her first jelly fish.
Jellies are Anna’s main fear on this record attempt. On the way to becoming the first woman to swim the Cabrera Channel between the island of Cabrera and Sa Repita in Mallorca earlier this year she swam through jellyfish infested waters. However those jellies, although pretty vicious, are nothing like the lions mane jelly fish which inhabit the waters around Tiree. Their six-foot long tentacles deliver a sting like a powerful electric shock and can be enough to knock a person unconscious. Fingers crossed unlike the seals they keep their distance.
We’re trying to get some photos back for you but phone comms from the island – especially out on a boat – aren’t brilliant for data transfer. We’ll keep trying though.
In the meantime, you can follow her progress every ten minutes here: http://yb.tl/fiveislandswim2013 and updates on Twitter @annawardley
Next update around midday.
12.55 update 13th August
Anna Wardley has been in the water for almost seven and a half hours and has reached the most southerly point of the island. She is making good headway despite the fact the tides have been against her most of the way.
While the tides are by no means favourable, the wind is with her. Today was the only weather window available in the next two weeks and tomorrow the wind would be against her as well as the tide. Add to that the need to complete most of the circumnavigation in daylight because there are so many reefs and rocks to navigate around.
The strongest tides she will encounter are in Gunna Sound between Tiree and Coll and for that stretch of the course she and her support RIB and kayaker will have the added knowledge of local escort, Iain McDonald, to help guide her through. To put everyone’s minds at rest she won’t be going to be near the Corryvrekon whirlpool that can ‘swallow a boat whole’.
The Gunna Sound is also where the largest concentration of basking sharks are sighted as that is where the plankton blooms generate. Anna has been taking advice from the Shark Trust on how to behave around the gentle giants (the average adult is approximately as long as one of the old London Routemaster buses) so as to avoid disturbing them, and local wildlife expert, John Bowler, with his great wealth of knowledge has been of great assistance. If you fancy a David Attenborough five minutes over lunch, find out more about basking sharks here.
When Anna first started open water swimming six years ago her biggest fear was coming face to face with the gaping jaws of a basking shark. I have a sneaking suspicion she would be disappointed if she didn’t see one on this swim.
The seals have been almost constant companions so far and minke whales are often sighted off Tiree as well.
The jellies seem to be keeping their distance for the time being. Some lion’s mane jellyfish have been found washed up on beaches on the north side of the island, so the team will be keeping extra special watch on that stretch. The earlier one was identified as a Portuguese Man o’War.
Follow progress on the Yellowbrick #annatracker, regular updates on Twitter @annawardley. For more about Anna and the three charities she is raising money for and the reasons behind those choices, there’s information at her website here.
17.00 update 13th August
Latest on Anna Wardley’s bid to become the first person to swim around Tiree, the fourth island in her Five Island Swim Challenge which aims to raise £50,000 for charity.
Tiree is feeling like a pretty big island right now, especially as it’s started to drizzle and the temperature has dropped. Eleven and a half hours into this challenge and this is hard going.
But – Anna is half way to becoming the first woman to swim around it and there’s a point about half a mile ahead that once she’s round it, she’ll have the tide and wind with her. We are willing her on.
Instead of feeling like she’s trying to climb up an escalator going down, she’ll suddenly feel like she’s on a conveyor belt carrying her in the right direction.
Anna has been making great progress; she has been powering up the west side of the island and is on target for the timescale she had in mind at the outset – between 20 and 30 hours. It does look like she’ll have to swim a fair chunk of the course in the dark, something she was really hoping to avoid as much as possible to make the wildlife, jellyfish in particular, easier to spot.
Best guess from the support team on the boat earlier was that it’s going to take her about 24 hours in total to complete the challenge. This would take her to around 5am tomorrow (Weds). No one has ever swum around Tiree before so there are lots of unknowns, despite the thorough planning over the last few months. The bays, rocks and reefs can generate back eddies and currents that can halt progress seemingly at random.
I mentioned in an earlier update today that one of the ways she breaks down the enormity of the task at hand is to focus on the next feed stop and just keep going until then. They are every half an hour and the team only lets her stop for a maximum of 5 minutes. Any longer and she would start to get too cold.
Each feed stop is a chance to replenish some of the thousands of calories she will burn off during this challenge and it’s a mix of slow release carbs and quick hit sugars washed down by pink juice (apple and blackcurrant squash), blue juice (isotonic sports drink to help replace minerals and salts) and water. Some open water swimmers advocate taking hot drinks but Anna prefers not to until she is out of the water, in dry clothes and wrapped in as many blankets and fleeces as possible to warm up again.
Those of you who have followed Anna’s progress for a while will know that the salt water attacks the lining of her mouth and throat while she’s swimming, making it more difficult to swallow, so the food is fairly bland and designed to be easily ingested and digested. Rice pudding (served in a bag that can be squeezed), plain pasta and mashed banana (bananas are high in potassium which helps combat muscle cramps) as well as high energy glucose gels are interspersed with treats: jam donuts, Percy Pigs and a Scottish favourite, Tunnock’s Tea Cakes. In Anna’s case a little bit of what you fancy really does help to keep you going. Her last meal before a swim is usually a big bowl of porridge, a great energy food which helps her keep going to the first feed stop a hour into the swim. After that it’s little and often.
Enjoy your dinner, whatever you’re having this evening – somehow I doubt it’ll involve rice pudding in a bag or pink foam sweets.
I’ll send out another email update about 9pm, in the meantime please follow on Twitter @annawardley and the Yellowbrick #annatracker here.
21.30 update 13th August
Anna Wardley has now been swimming for 16 hours in her bid to become the first person to swim around Tiree. I confess to having a short nap at 7pm after a 4am start this morning but no such luck for Anna. I have no idea how she finds the mental and physical strength to put one arm in front of the other hour after hour. By my reckoning she’s taken somewhere in the region of 54,720 strokes so far in this feat of endurance. By the time 24 hours are up that figure will have risen to something in the region of 82,000 strokes.
As you can imagine this kind of repetitive motion takes its toll on even the fittest of athletes and Anna will have been taking painkillers to alleviate the burning shoulders she’s now experiencing.
She is plugging away along the north of Tiree with about 5 miles to go to reach Gunna Sound, the narrow stretch of water between Tiree and the neighbouring island of Coll. Conditions on this side of the island have been the most favourable they have been all day, with just a gentle swell and the tide in her favour. At 7pm air temperature was 15.4C and the sea was only slightly cooler at 14.6C. The three-strong safety team in the support RIB and kayak (Corinne Gillard, Matt Pryor and Tom Savage) are urging her on to make the most of these favourable tides by upping the pace slightly before the somewhat unknown quantity that is the Gunna Sound.
As well as fatigue – kayaker Matt reports she was tired at her last feed stop, but still moving in the right direction – darkness will be the next obstacle between Anna and a new world record. With the sun setting by 9.30pm and very little moon to light her way she will have to negotiate the final miles in darkness. We’ve had no further reports of jellyfish, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there, and Gunna Sound is also a favourite hang out of the giant basking sharks.
You may notice a slight blip on the tracker – that’s because the kit sending back the signal is mounted on the RIB rather than on the swimmer and they went off on a quick recce but are now back with Anna.
I estimate there’s still another eight to ten hours to go to the finish so I will send another update towards 4 or 5am so breakfast broadcasters have info for early bulletins – if you need anything for a deadline before that please do give me a call and I’ll do my best to get what you need.
In the meantime please continue to follow updates on Twitter @annawardley and on the tracker: http://yb.tl/fiveislandswim2013
Thanks again for the coverage you have been giving Anna’s swim today – it has helped to generate more donations towards her target of £50,000 for her three charities, The Samaritans, Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and Sail Africa, and every time someone makes a donation they get a text on the boat so that has really been helping to spur her on. Plus, of course, we’ve been passing on everyone’s messages of support. There is more information on the three charities and why Anna is supporting them on her website: http://www.annawardley.com/#/the-charities/4562583946
21.45 update 13th August – retirement
A further update rather sooner than planned and sad news from Anna Wardley’s record attempt to become the first person to swim around Tiree
After 16 hours, nine minutes and eight seconds Anna has been taken out of the water after approximately 22 miles of the 30 mile swim.
Her support team will be focussing on getting her warm and onto dry land.
Please bear with my while we allow them to do this – I will get more information and reaction from Anna as soon as I can.
05.45 update 14th August – afterwards
British endurance swimmer, Anna Wardley, has retired from her bid to be the first person ever to swim around the Scottish island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides after 16 hours 9 minutes and 8 seconds, covering 22 miles of the 30-mile circumnavigation.
The round Tiree swim was the fourth in the 37-year-old’s Five Island Swim Challenge, which has already seen her successfully circumnavigate Dragonera off the coast of Mallorca (10km, 6.2 miles) and Portsea Island (21km, 13 miles). Hers was the first swim around Portsea to be officially ratified by the British Long Distance Swimming Association (BLDSA).
In June she became the first person this year to successfully swim around Jersey (66km, 41 miles) in a shade under 12 hours and in similar water temperatures to today’s swim. Crucially, for the first 15 miles of today’s record attempt, the tide and wind were against her.
Swimming under BLDSA rules wearing just a swimsuit, one hat and a pair of goggles, before she entered the water at 0519 on Tuesday morning Anna commented that, as no one had ever attempted to swim around the Inner Hebrides’ most westerly island before, she had no idea whether it was even possible.
“It was really tough out there today and I am utterly exhausted but I’m proud of what I achieved, although it was not what I set out to do,” said Anna after the swim.
“It was hugely encouraging to hear of all the support I had around the world as I swam and I’m massively grateful for all the donations that my charities received.”
The swim was called off as Anna was hallucinating and was so cold her chattering teeth were preventing her from breathing properly. “If you can’t breathe properly as a swimmer it’s game over,” she said. “I was colder than I’ve ever been and it was really biting into my core. As my pace slowed I got even colder.”
As her body temperature dropped, Anna told support kayaker Matt Pryor of her concerns. Minutes later as the situation failed to improve, Matt, swim co-ordinator Corinne Gillard and Anna decided to abort the swim for Anna’s safety. Now she is out she wants to enjoy what was a recurring thought while she swam: a roast dinner in front of the fire.
Anna’s Five Island Swim Challenge is raising funds and awareness for three charities close to her heart: The Samaritans, who provide 24-7 support for people in distress and despair; the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust which works with young people between the ages of eight and 24 who are in recovery from cancer, introducing them to sailing as part of the process of putting their lives back together; and Sail Africa, which works with young disadvantaged people in Durban to improve their life chances through sailing.
Before she set off today she had already raised £42,000 towards her £50,000 goal.
Frank Fletcher, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, was among those sending their congratulations and best wishes to Anna via Facebook and Twitter after her record attempt.
He said, “Anna, best wishes from everyone at the Trust, we are so proud of you.”
It is a sentiment echoed by scores of people on the social networking sites.
Anna will no doubt be seen again in Tiree’s crystal clear waters as she recovers from her efforts today and begins to concentrate on the final swim in the Five Island series, the Isle of Wight, which she will tackle next month. It has been 30 years since the last successful solo attempt to swim the 60 miles around the Isle of Wight and no woman has ever achieved the feat. Water temperatures are approximately five degrees higher and the tides are faster flowing than those around Tiree.
For more information visit www.annawardley.com.