There was a buzz around Lerwick Harbour today as hundreds turned out to support 19 hardy souls who swam across Bressay Sound for charity.
A loud cheer went up when the happy group arrived at the small boat harbour, having reached the end of their three quarters of a mile sun-kissed adventure in near-perfect conditions.
And the money raised a smile, too. So far over £13,200 has been given in aid of CLIC Sargent, NHS Shetland’s frontline services and the RNLI.
Today’s exercise was the brainchild of local nurse Emma Williamson. She wanted to help her friend Sharon Moore’s 11-year-old son Cody-Jay, who has a brain tumour. CLIC Sargent helps children with cancer and their families. The other organisations were added to the cause as plans developed.
Emma said: “It’s £13,253 so far. It’s still coming in. We’ve got satellite sponsor sheets all over Shetland.
“It feels great. The weather’s brilliant. I was actually saying it feels like the safest swim I’ve ever done with the amount of kayaks and guard-boats.
“This was just a pleasure today. We thoroughly enjoyed coming across.”
The group were spurred on by the many people who turned out to see them.
Emma added: “The 19 swimmers all have families, friends, work colleagues. A lot of ones from the NHS are really pushing the boat out – pardon the pun – and have come down and cheered us on.
“I’m very emotional. I came in and saw Cody-Jay watching us come in. He’s currently going under a 12-month chemo regime and he’s doing really well.
“Robert Philips started us off on the other side. Robert has been my friend for 30 years and he had to use Shetland frontline services when his heart stopped in the swimming pool, just over a year ago. It was actually me that resuscitated him, and that was one of the reasons I wanted him to start us off. And I wanted Cody-Jay this side. And obviously the Lerwick lifeboat has been brilliant with their guard boats. They are just three causes really close to everybody’s hearts.”
Among the swimmers was The Shetland Times‘ very own cartoonist, Stephen Gordon.
He enjoyed the swim, although his departure from Bressay had suffered something of a delayed start.
“We’d been out in the sun at the beginning, so it was a little bit cold when we first went in the water.
“I did maybe chat too much to the kayaker on the way over. We discussed the need for bee-keeping this year, and before I knew it the rest of the swimmers were well ahead of me.
“I thought I would take the hare and tortoise approach, but the story didn’t quite work out!”
He said he had enjoyed the training in the lead-up to the event, but it might be some time before he takes to the water again. Asked what he was going to do now with his wet-suit, the jovial artist replied: “Not much.”
Fellow swimmer Jane Timperley may have come all the way from Kinross for the event, but she still had the energy to complete the task in style.
“It was great. It was absolutely perfect. I was expecting to be wrestled by high winds and waves, and it was just quite calm – it might as well have been a salty loch.
She said the amount raised was “absolutely amazing”.
“It will be appreciated by the three charities that will benefit. And that’s only the start. It’s not all been counted yet.”
Coxswain of the Lerwick lifeboat, Bruce Leask said the support had been incredible, and all the swimmers had performed well.
“I’m actually amazed by the amount of folk that were out watching it. We were half way across to the harbour and looking across, the number of folk here was unbelievable.
“They’ve all done a good job swimming. From the first to the last, they’ve all done a remarkable thing. Well done to all them.”