Festive fundraisers brave the sea

STEPHEN PULLINGER A crowd of more than 1,000 spectators lined the beach in Lowestoft this morning to watch a record 200 swimmers brave a murky-looking North Sea for the 29th Christmas Day dip.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

A crowd of more than 1,000 spectators lined the beach in Lowestoft this morning to watch a record 200 swimmers brave a murky-looking North Sea for the 29th Christmas Day dip.

Meanwhile, along the coast in Southwold, around 100 hardy souls - led by mayor Michael Ladd in full regalia - simultaneously entered the water at 10.30am for the town's third Christmas Day swim.

Swimmers ranging in age from nine to their mid 80s took part at Lowestoft, many wearing fancy dress costumes, from the predictable Father Christmas to fairies and even a stray Robin Hood.

The event brought no surprises to Joe Annis, 51, for he has competed in all 29 - and even did a dip on his own for two years before it started.

This year taking part with his son Tom, 12, Mr Annis, who runs Waveney lifeguards during the summer, said: “It was rough one year when they only allowed people to go in the sea in small groups, and I remember two frosty swims, but we are nearly always lucky with the weather like this year.”

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Swimmers to catch the eye included motor engineer Graham Orpet who donned a formal suit and tie for the occasion and strummed a banjo. “It's brilliant. I do it every year and always try to dress up in a different way,” he said.

Project manager Paul Chilvers, 47, dressed up as a clown for his ninth swim but was deadly serious about raising £200 from sponsorship.

Mark Attenburrow, one of the organisers, said: “We are delighted with the turnout which we believe is a record. We were worried last week with all the fog, but the weather has turned out perfect apart from missing a bit of sunshine.”

It is hoped the swim will raise up to £12,000 for Waveney charities, the biggest single fundraiser being Keith Hunter, a teacher at The Denes High School, Lowestoft, who has been pledged £700.

Community police officer PC Mike Gard was among those braving the sea at Southwold to raise funds for Beach Radio charity Help an East Coast Child.

Meanwhile, a colourful contingent of fancy dress swimmers, admired by several hundred spectators, included a Blues Brothers lookalikes.

Organiser Dudley Clarke, whose wife Marion launched the swim three years ago as a challenge to local business people, said: “We are delighted how it went and hope to raise around £3000.”