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Suffolk: Thousands take the plunge

PUBLISHED: 10:59 28 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:17 06 July 2010

THOUSANDS of people zipped into their wetsuits and took to open water this weekend in the first ever Great East Swim.

More than 1,500 swimmers swam breast stroke, freestyle and back stroke around Alton Water for the event on Saturday, the last in a four-part series of events taking place across the UK.

THOUSANDS of people zipped into their wetsuits and took to open water this weekend in the first ever Great East Swim.

More than 1,500 swimmers swam breast stroke, freestyle and back stroke around Alton Water for the event on Saturday, the last in a four-part series of events taking place across the UK.

Hopefuls of all ages and abilities mixed with celebrity swimmers in waves of about 200 people at a time and watched in awe as Olympic Champions and world class athletes took on the mile-challenge.

Swimmers from across the region took part with one Ipswich man raising money for the RNLI after being rescued by them after a sailing incident earlier this year.

Ian Johnson, of Dales View Road, said it was the first open water swim he has done and was pleased with his time of around 35 minutes, helping him raise about £200 for the charity.

Husband and wife duo, Claire and Kevin Blakey, of Rushmere St Andrew, also took part with Mrs Blakey, a nurse at Ipswich Hospital, just beating her husband to the finish line.

Mr Blakey said it had been nerve wracking in the run up to the start line but turned out to be a fantastic experience, admitting it was tricky maintaining the right direction and following the buoys.

Another participant Wendy Hughes, of Haughley, near Stowmarket crossed the finishing line to the loud cheers of her supporters.

She said despite being “very scared” the swim was better than she had thought and hinted she may be tempted to take on the challenge and better her time of about 50 minutes next year.

For one swimmer though the conditions and challenge came as no surprise.

Julian Crabtree, a sports journalist and adventurer, successfully completed every wave of every swim in the series, swimming a total distance of 44 miles.

The 41-year-old said: “It's been tough but I'm proud of what I have achieved and met some great people over recent week.

“You can't help but enjoy it, this beautiful day at this beautiful spot, and the people have been fantastic.”

In order to complete his challenge, Mr Crabtree had to complete the swims in less than 30 minutes in order to get back to the start line for the next round.

Speaking at the event organiser David Hart said: “Today is not just about the best swimmers in the world, we have people of all shapes and sizes, some of the fastest swimmers in the world and some of the slowest too.”

He said around 7,000 swimmers and spectators had enjoyed the day, bringing their children and dogs for a fun family day out.

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