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Trio organise charitable around the Rock swim challenge

Eyleen Gomez

Three men have challenged themselves to a charitable swim around the Rock where they hope to be joined by up to 30 more swimmers.

The challenge will see Matt Coulthard, Gary Evans and Wayne Warwick enter the water at Western Beach and swim over 11.5km to the shore of Eastern Beach in early October, all in aid of the GBC Open Day.

“We all started swimming a lot during lockdown and it has just gone from there. I think everyone who enjoys a bit of sea swimming in Gibraltar sees this as the ultimate swim challenge,” said Mr Evans.

Mr Evans mentioned his idea to his two friends who both readily wanted to be part of the challenge.

“From there Matt and Wayne have done the lion share of the work in bringing my silly idea to life,” said Mr Evans.

None of the men have even attempted swimming around the Rock before but Mr Evans has completed a distance of 11.5km on three previous occasions, two of which had extremely calm waters.

The furthest Mr Warwick has swam is 5.5km and on more than doubling that he said he is hoping that in the next week or so he ups that to 8kms.

At present he is swimming four or five times a week between 2 to 4km each one. Mr Coulthard swam 8km and achieved this recently with Mr Evans in a training swim.

“We all have done different swims at different parts of the Rock, maybe the back of GASA, Sandy Bay, Eastern Beach, so we have done them in different areas, but as potentially around the Rock no of us have attempted it before,” said Mr Evans.

The distance is not set in stone, Mr Warwick explains that it is 11.5km ‘straight line’, but if the currents are against them it could be a lot more than that.

The date is set for October 3, but if the conditions are bad on the day they will defer to October 4.

Should the weather and sea conditions be unfavourable on that day a new date at the time will be announced potentially for the following weekend.

“There is some really good swimmers there but there are some swimmers who are just starting out as well who are going to attempt it,” said Mr Evans.

“We are going to try and think of the bigger picture as in we want to get everyone across the finish line.”

The first group of swimmers will enter the water at Western Beach at 2pm.

“We are going to do it in waves so we are not all in at the same time, as we are also all at different paces,” Mr Warwick said.

“We have looked at the tide because we want to have the tide in our favour obviously.”

“We are looking at the tide primarily at Europa Point which is the toughest part. We all want to be at Europa Point in high water, which on October 3 is 3.50 to 4.50.”

“Then we will have the tide completely in our favour and at the maximum speed. We are looking at the slowest swimmers leaving around 2 to 2.30, and then the next lot probably 15 to 20 minutes later and the fastest swimmers will leave 20 minutes after that.”

“So that we should all meet at Europa Point at the same time and all getting the ultimate help around Europa Point.”

Another aspect of swimming around Europa Point is the raw sewage that flows out to the sea.

“We are going to have a couple of boats out there,” Mr Coulthard said.

“We are going to check it out before we start to see which way the current is and the mess is floating away and then it will be personal choice.”

“We are going to recommend to anyone taking part to swim around it the best you can even if it means you have to do an extra couple of hundred metres or so.”

“If anyone is brave enough and silly enough to swim through it then that is down to them.”

“We will have a boat with a banner on it saying swim to us and that will be a marker to swim around to avoid it as much as possible.”

Should a swimmer feel they cannot continue there are various points around the Rock where they can get out of the water.

Failing that there will be a cohort of paddle boarding, kayaks, jets skis and boats following the swimmers who will be able to bring them on board or to dry land.

A swimmer can use any of these to give themselves a rest should they require one.

The length of time it will take for the swimmers to complete the journey naturally varies depending on ability.

“The good swimmers will take around three hours to maybe five. The good swimmers like the likes of Nathan Payas who is part tuna is looking at three hours and then you have us,” said Mr Coulthard.

There will also be triathletes taking part and carrying to Walker family baton on will be the son of medal winning triathlete Chris Walker.

“There are lots of people who have always wanted to swim around the Rock but there was always oh who is the same pace as me, how am I going to get a boat or kayak to follow me. Anyone who is a good swimmer if are going to want to do it, now is the time,” said Mr Evans.

“There is potentially 30 people doing it, Matt has a load of kayaks, paddle boarders and other associations involved, Wayne has got the Rhibs. If anyone wants to do it now is the time.”

The trio are encouraging people to go down to the north end of Eastern Beach on the day to welcome the swimmers ashore or if they have a means of transport for the water and are keen to help refuel the swimmers to let them know.

All help and supported would be appreciated each man said

The men have chosen to support the GBC Open Day because over the years all three of them have done various challenges for charity individually.

They felt the GBC Open Day covered so many charities that were important and vital on the Rock.

Looking towards the future the three men would like to see this event be the inaugural event of an annual challenge.

Mr Evans believes it will attract international swimmers as well as locals and could potentially grow each year.