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Hundreds dive into annual fundraising fancy dress sea swim
11:30am Wednesday 2nd January 2013 in News
IT was a fresh start to 2013 for hundreds of new year’s revellers who took to the icy water for an annual fancy dress dip. More than 300 swimmers took a bracing splash in the Solent to raise hundreds of pounds for dozens of charities – and to wash away their hangovers. Even the Mayor of Gosport, councillor Richard Dickson, stripped down to his underpants to join other brave men, women and children for the icy plunge in Gosport’s Stokes Bay. Watched by thousands of spectators on the shore, the fancy-dress clad daredevils dippers dunked and dived their way into the 8C waters for the Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service’s (GAFIRS) popular annual event. The cheering crowds lining the pebble beach were treated to a rescue demonstration by the lifeboat station’s crew and HM Coastguard helicopter. The plucky swimmers, who were clad in an array of bizarre outfits – from penguins, to pirates and skimpy thongs – waited for 12pm until they dashed into the water from the station’s slipway. Gary Bohannan, a 27-year-old marine engineer in the Royal Navy, said it was the tenth year he had taken the plunge. He said: “It is a bit on the cold side but it is the best way to start the new year – and get rid of any hangovers! It is absolutely freezing in there.” The GAFIRS New Year dip first began in the early 1970s and has since attracted more and more hardy swimmers. Corrine Gillard, 40, who lives in Fareham, said it was the first time she had taken part in the event. She said: “I am completely numb but it was beautiful in the water, it is amazing I think I will do it again next year.” Meanwhile Martin Palethorpe, a 43-year-old executive coach, from Titchfield, led a family dressed as penguins into the chilly waters. He said: “We do it every year for a bit of fun. We love it. It has become part of our new year now – I am not sure you do get used to the shock of the cold water though.” Mike Allen, vice-chairman of GAFIRS, said the event was a success. He said: “We’ve been gifted with a beautiful day and the turnout has been phenomenal. “A lot of people take part to raise money for GAFIRS and other charities too, which means we are doing our bit for the community but it is nice to open up the station and show the public what we do.”