Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Anna completes 5ive Island Swim Challenge

Published on October 9, 2013 by   ·   No Comments

Marina Live! has been following the progress of superhuman swimmer, Anna Wardley since she started her challenge of swimming around five islands in May 2012.  The first notch on her belt was the Mallorcan island of Sa Dragonera and since then this courageous Hampshire woman has also conquered Portsea, Jersey, and the Isle of Wight on her quest to raise money for three very deserving charities, namely the Samaritans, Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and Sail Africa. And although the island of Tiree defeated her after a mammoth 16 hours in the water the challenge is considered to have been completed.


Not only has Anna exceeded her £50,000 fundraising target but she has broken a few records along the way and amazed other long distance swimming veterans.


Anna’s blog features a quotation from the novelist, Harriet Beecher Stowe, which has clearly inspired her, “When you get yourself into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

It was this determination not to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory that kept her going during her final Isle of Wight challenge covering 20 and 21 September, a stupendous 60 mile swim which took her 26 hours, 33 minutes and 28 seconds to complete.  In fact, this was such a daunting prospect that Anna discovered that she would be the first person to attempt it in three decades.


“I was so cold after 15 hours of swimming, that I was starting to drift off and I was battling an overwhelming urge to close my eyes. My mind was slow and confused – I kept mistaking Robbie and Dave, my two magnificent support kayakers, for surfacing submarines,” she confessed.

Enduring the extreme cold of the water was a challenge in itself, but Anna’s mind was focused on success. She drew inspiration from previous stages of her 5ive Island Swim Challenge and the people for whom she had embarked on her money-raising mission in the first place and was sustained by a combination of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes, Percy Pigs, rice pudding and chocolate mousse.


“Climbing out of the water into my support boat after 16 hours on my attempt to become the first person to swim round Tiree in the Inner Hebrides last month was an experience I was determined I wasn’t going to repeat.  I’d only done it once before, on my first Channel attempt in 2007, and it’s a soul destroying experience. When I got in the water on Friday, getting out wasn’t an option. Had it been on the menu I’d have taken it a thousand times over, but before I got in the water I decided that it wasn’t an option. I was going to put one arm in front of the other, as many times as it took to get me there.”
“People keep asking me how tough it was and although it was undoubtedly tough, I choose to do what I do, and it’s nowhere near as tough as living with depression, losing a loved one to suicide, being diagnosed with cancer in your teens or growing up in extreme poverty. They are things that nobody chooses and I’m raising money for three fantastic charities that help people in these situations.”


“We raised over £5,000 for the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, Sail Africa and the Samaritans at our charity auction at the PSP Southampton Boat Show the Friday before I swam, which was a fantastic boost.”

Anna was especially pleased that Kevin Murphy was present as one of the official observers of her swim, representing the British Long Distance Swimming Association.  Murphy’s nickname, King of the English Channel, refers to the 34 times he has swum that strip of water, yet even he was amazed by Anna’s endurance, saying “It was an epic swim, an inspiration to watch, and a marvellous achievement. Anna’s willpower is incredible. She kept going and never once faltered.  It was a privilege to see it.”

After recovering from the final Isle of Wight challenge, Anna used her blog to record her thoughts as the extent of her achievement began to sink in, “By finishing the swim I also became a member of the 24-Hour Club (subject to ratification), as the ninth Briton to ever swim for an excess of a day, in addition to becoming the fourth person to ever swim round the Isle of Wight and the first since 1984. Rattling those stats off makes me smile like a Cheshire cat.”

News of the 5ive Island Swim Challenge spread from Anna’s hometown of Gosport to other parts of the UK and ultimately to the rest of the world.  Such international fame was a shock even to team Wardley as the Isle of Wight swim reached its conclusion.  “When I got out I discovered that we’d been on the BBC television national news and were the fourth most viewed news item on the BBC international website, and my story had been picked up by the national broadcasters and print media in the UK and Australia as I ploughed my way round the island,” Anna noted.

Anna’s immediate plans for the future include spending more time taking her beloved dog, Deefs for walks at Stokes Bay, but Anna has a will of iron and it is impossible to believe that it will be long before she is seduced by the siren song of another seemingly impossible challenge.

To donate, visit her website:










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