Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Boxing Day brrrraves

SIX swimmers took a dip in the Thames in Henley on Boxing Day.

SIX swimmers took a dip in the Thames in Henley on Boxing Day.

They completed the 70m swim across the river from the landing stages of Red Lion Lawn on the Henley bank to Leander Club on the Berkshire side.

The Heller family, from Skirmett, who organise the annual swim, made up the majority of the party.

Beatrice Heller, 28, took to the water first and was followed by her sister Rosie, 24, their mother Mandy, 60, the girls’ uncle William, 65, and friend Chris Gee, 29. The other male swimmer preferred not to be identified.

Beatrice said: “I jumped in first and then hung around the back to make sure they all got across. My mother was a bit nervous about the cold so the girls stayed together and the typical boys left us behind.

“The swim was all very relaxed as the flow wasn’t very strong. It was very easy and nobody had any problems. It felt very safe in comparison with last year.”

The event is now in its fifth year. Last year’s went ahead despite the Henley reach being on red boards due to a strong flow. In 2012, the event had to be cancelled due to flooding so the Hellers thrashed about in the swollen Hambleden brook instead.

Beatrice said they took a water temperature reading of 9C on Christmas Eve and the reading would have been similar on Boxing Day.

She said: “It was a bright but cold day, meaning that the water temperature was actually warmer than the air temperature — not that that helped persuade any more people to join us!

“We attracted the stares of some very confused passers-by as we began to strip down to our swimwear. Even a rowing eight stopped to have a look.

“Then without much fanfare we either jumped or dived into the water and, depending on how quickly we wished to get out, either swam a brisk front crawl or a more sedate breaststroke to the other side.”

The swimmers were watched from the banks by a “support crew” of about 15 friends and family who provided towels, clothes and mulled cider when they got out of the water.

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