Thousands take the plunge in the summer sunshine at 10th annual Great East Swim
- Credit: GREAT SWIM/PETER LANGDOWN
Thousands of the region’s bravest swimmers donned their wetsuits and took the plunge at the Great East Swim when it returned to Suffolk today.
Around 6,000 participants and spectators turned out for the county’s biggest open water swim held at Alton Water, just outside of Ipswich – with people of all ages and abilities taking on a variety of challenges.
Set in the picturesque surroundings of the man-made reservoir, with temperatures in the lake hitting 20 C, the swim is estimated to have raised £12,000 for official charity partner, Macmillan.
This weekend’s event was the 10th of its kind in Suffolk, having launched back in 2009 – with more than 20,000 people taking part over its decade-long history.
The event has grown from a one-mile swim to a full range of distances, from the beginner-focused 250m (Swim250) right through to the marathon 10km distance.
A number of inspirational people from across Suffolk took to the water – including a team of Ipswich-based firefighters swimming in memory of their colleague Tony Bickers, who lost his life after being struck by a train in 2016.
The team, along with the rest of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, are signed up to mental health charity Mind’s Blue Light Programme.
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It was set up to support members of the emergency services with mental health issues.
At the elite end of the spectrum, the winner of the men’s 5km was Jamie Scholes, who beat runner up George Barber by less than 10 seconds – coming in at 59 minutes and 18 seconds.
While in the women’s race, Maisie Maccartney took the crown – storming home in a super-quick one hour, two minutes and 45 seconds.
Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne got swimmers under way throughout the day, before taking part in a one-mile swim herself.
The event was organised in partnership with Suffolk County Council (SCC), as part of a scheme to make Suffolk the most active county in England.
Alex Jackson, director of the Great Swim Series, said: “It was a fantastic day in Suffolk and we would like to say a huge well done to all the swimmers who took part and helped celebrate our tenth anniversary.
“We were especially delighted to see the Swim250 and SwimRun events grow this year as they have certainly established themselves as an integral part of the Great East Swim weekend.
“We would also like to say thank you to all of our staff, safety team and volunteers, as well as our partners Suffolk County Council, who make this such a brilliant event every year.”
James Reeder, cabinet member for health at SCC, added: “It was fantastic to see so many people of all ages and ability coming together to take part in what is a fantastic event for Suffolk.
“The sense of achievement on the faces of the individuals who cross the finish line and complete their challenge is evident for everyone to see.
“I am in no doubt that events of this nature play a significant part in inspiring more people to get active across the county and have a very positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents of Suffolk.”