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Thu 8th Dec 2016
© Round the Island Swim
Isle of Wight charity swim
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Tuesday 11th September 2007

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All summer long (if that isn't an oxymoron...) Jo Haley (aka Blue Shark) has been ploughing round the lake at Liquid Leisure without a wetsuit. Why?, we asked. Surely not another Channel swimmer getting in some practice? But no, Jo had far stranger plans afoot than that...

In the summer of 2006, Gary Robb and Steve Parker met Alice Gilks and Jo Haley on a swimming holiday, after which Gary had the somewhat strange idea of swimming around the Isle of Wight as a six-person relay team – without wetsuits. The other three agreed immediately and soon co-opted Bob Lee and Adam Jeffery, with Millie Wright as substitute. A year of planning and training began, and two charities were selected; the RNLI and the Earl Mountbatten Hospice.

After two attempts had been called off before they even started due to the windy summer weather, the team were finally able to start from Ryde Pier at 10:30pm on Thursday 30th August 2007. Setting off in the dark with glow sticks attached to his swimwear the first swimmer, Gary Robb, and the rest of the team were waved off by supporters and Wightlink ferry night staff.

Adam gets ready for leg 3 at night across CowesSwimming anti-clockwise around the island they soon passed Cowes and Yarmouth, after which came the first challenge; the Needles. It was still dark, and only the accompanying RIB could navigate through with the swimmer while the large support vessel used the deeper outside channel. This was, said captain Gary, "the scariest part of the whole swim, as it was quite dark and I felt like I was swimming backwards onto the rocks".

Here too the sea-sickness began and this was not helped by the choppy seas off St. Catherine's Point at around 8am. Only Gary, Bob and the boat crews were immune.

Ventnor, Shanklin and Sandown were the next key positions, after which came Bembridge, where supporters actually sighted the orange-hatted swimmer from land for the first time. Then finally, after only 16 hours, 27 minutes and 37 seconds, the two boats and the final swimmer arrived at Ryde Pier just before 3pm on Friday 31st August. They were greeted by supporters, staff from Wightlink, and members of the general public.

The Blue Shark escaped from Liquid Leisure lakeThe exhausted team returned to Southampton that night, agreeing it had been a fabulous experience but they wouldn't mind if they never set foot on an undulating boat again! "The best bit was that every time we rounded a headland, we lost sight of where we had just been and it felt like that section was over," they said. "We're just so pleased we have finally done it."

The team would like to thank everyone who made this event possible, particularly their corporate sponsors; Cowan Consultancy, Fareham Leisure Centre, Gallagher Mobility Aids, SeaFlex, Shirley Swimming Pool, SLP, The Duke of Wellington Public House, Vikoma, VT Shipbuilding, and Zoggs, as well as Red Funnel, Wightlink, the Isle of Wight Council and all the harbour and inshore authorities.

A special thank you goes to the boat crews from the RNLI and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, "The RNLI boat guided us the whole way, and the NOCS boat was our bodyguard, shielding us from the other traffic on the water," said Adam.

For more information and to sponsor the team, visit The main photo at the top shows the successful team back at National Oceanography Centre, with main support vessel Bill Conway. Front row from left: Alice Gilks, Gary Robb, Adam Jeffery, Stephen Parker, Jo Haley and Bob Lee. Back row from left: support crew of Gary, Matt and Bob.

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