A GROUP of 18 swimmers are gearing up to tackle the 1,200-metre channel between Bressay and Lerwick to raise money for three different causes early next month.
The swimmers’ training is already well underway ahead of braving the cold water of Lerwick Harbour on Saturday 6 September.
They are raising money for a trio of beneficiaries: children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent, the Lerwick lifeboat and NHS Shetland’s frontline emergency services.
Gilbert Bain Hospital nurse Emma Williamson, originally from Fetlar, said she had the idea when walking around the Knab with her friend Sharon Moore, whose young son Cody-Jay has a brain tumour.
Williamson said: “I just looked over the sound – it was kinda something I’ve always wanted to do – and I said ‘I’m going to swim over there to raise money for Cody-Jay’, one of those flippant remarks. I spoke to a couple of folk [and] they said they always wanted to do that too.”
Cody-Jay's mum hailed CLIC Sargent’s support in helping care for the 11 year old, including providing accommodation while he has been in Edinburgh receiving treatment.
She thinks those taking part are “mad, but amazing” and described the charity as “wonderful”. “I don’t know what our family would have done without them,” Moore wrote on the event's Facebook page.
CLIC Sargent provides and pays for nurses specialising in working with children who have cancer and tumours. They train parents to carry out certain procedures at home rather than on a hospital ward.
Cody-Jay has started a 12-month chemotherapy course and Moore will stay in Edinburgh with him for that time as the specialised treatment is not available in Shetland.
Williamson said the other two causes were added in “because they were quite relevant to the folk of Shetland, really, to keep it local”.
She said the swim, which will depart Bressay at the slip near the Maryfield and finish in Lerwick’s small boat harbour, was a mental challenge as much as anything else.
“If you’ve tried swimming outside in deep water, through tang, you actually start to realise it’s not all about the distance,” Williamson said.
“We picked 6 September because that time of year is about the warmest the water temperature will be.”
Numerous people have been working hard on the idea since October last year.
There is no set fundraising target, but those taking part hope to persuade some big firms operating in Shetland to provide corporate sponsorship.
Because Lerwick Harbour is a public waterway a risk assessment had to be conducted and guard boats will be required to ensure the swimmers’ safety.
The challenge will take place at slack tide, meaning participants have around an hour to complete it. Williamson says anyone who hasn’t completed it in that time will “maybe be fished out into the back of a guard boat”.
On the same afternoon there will be teas, coffees and home bakes at Lerwick Boating Club from 2pm, followed by a disco from 9pm.
The 1200-metre distance is just short of a mile and is the equivalent of swimming 48 full lengths of the Clickimin pool.
“There’s variety of abilities and age groups,” Williamson said. “For 80 per cent it’s just ticking off that you’ve done it, thinking about why they’re doing it as they’re swimming across.”
She paid thanks to everyone who has helped organise the event, including Abigail Robertson and Ryan Leith (both of whom are taking part) from Lerwick Port Authority for their assistance in completing the risk assessment.
Sponsorship forms are being distributed amongst local shops and businesses, while you can also donate in person by visiting the Lerwick branch of Santander on Commercial Street or by using online banking.
* For details of how to donate online, visit the Bressay to Lerwick Swim 2014 Facebook page.