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Woodbridge: Father of four, 47, escapes Alcatraz

19:00 14 May 2014

Nick Glendinning, has become the 12th person in history to swim the prison escape triple crown Alcatraz to San Francisco Harbour, Spike Island to the Irish mainland and Robben Island to Cape Town.

Nick Glendinning, has become the 12th person in history to swim the prison escape triple crown Alcatraz to San Francisco Harbour, Spike Island to the Irish mainland and Robben Island to Cape Town.

Sarah Lucy brown

Three of the world’s most famous prisons have been conquered by a man from Suffolk.


Nick Glendinning, a 47-year-old father of four from Woodbridge, has become only the twelfth person in history to achieve the triple crown of ‘prison break’ swims.

Having already swum from Alcatraz to San Francisco Harbour in September 2011 and Spike Island to the Irish mainland in September 2013, Mr Glendinning has now completed the final, and most difficult, of the three swims – Robben Island to Cape Town.

The swim is internationally recognised as one of the most challenging in the world, given the very cold temperatures and the prevalence of Great White Sharks in the area.

Mr Glendinning, who swims in the sea with Felixstowe Swimscapes, completed the gruelling challenge in just over three hours.

He said: “The swim started well but 45 minutes in the temperature really dropped to between 10 and 11 degrees.

“After an hour and a half I could start to feel the hypothermia setting in but just then a large dark shape passed directly underneath me and I sprinted for my support boat fearing it to be a Great White. The crew assured me it had been a seal.

“This got my heart going and after this the cold was less of an issue!

“All the currents come up from the Antartic. It’s colder now then in Felixstowe in the winter time.”

The swim was organised to mark 20 years of democracy in South Africa and to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s life. He spent 18 years incarcerated in the Robben Island prison.

Nineteen swimmers in just trunks goggles and a hat completed the swim. Included amongst them were South African Olympic swimmer Troy Prinsloo and James Pittar, a blind Australian long distance swimmer, who Mr Glendinning said was “amazing”, as he was guided by one whistle to turn left, and two turn right.

Mr Glendinning said: “It’s not very often that you get to swim with an Olympian.”

Each swimmer has to have their own support boat with a crew to keep an eye on the swimmer’s physical condition, provide sustenance, help navigate the route and keep a lookout for sharks. Two doctors and five paramedics were on the scene to deal with the inevitable cases of hypothermia.

And his son, Alfie, aged 10, has been inspired to follow in his father’s footsteps, who last year was the youngest person to swim to the Isle of Wight from the UK mainland.

Mr Glendinning said: “I have a feeling he’ll be a far more superior swimmer than I am. We’ve got a £50 bet for a 50 metre race. I think I’ve only got a few months left before he beats me!”

Mr Glendinning’s next swim will be the Manhattan Island Relay in New York in September.



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