TWO record-breaking friends are celebrating after becoming the first British people to swim from Spain to Morocco in a bid to highlight the dangers faced by whales and dolphins in the wild.
Adam Walker, from Huthwaite, and Chris Sheppard, who lives in Blidworth, completed the 19-mile round trip across the Strait of Gibraltar on 5th July, completing the gruelling challenge in nine hours and 39 minutes and nine hours and 41 minutes respectively.
They also became the first people in the world to swim both ways as a pair.
The Strait of Gibraltar is where the Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans meet and is difficult to swim because of its strong currents.
The pair, who had to fit in training around their full-time jobs, completed the first crossing from Tarifa in Spain to Punta Cires on the Moroccan coast near Tangiers in three hours and 25 minutes, breaking the previous British record by 10 minutes.
Adam said: “We made the decision to just go as fast as we could. We just went for it as if we were doing a one-way crossing.”
But as soon as they landed, the pair had to turn back and return to Spain to be in with a chance of completing it before the tides got too strong.
A support boat followed the pair and the crew included Adam’s wife Emily and Chris’ sister Melanie, who encouraged them and provided food along the way.
Adam and Chris, who swam the English Channel in 2008, wanted to take the challenge to raise funds for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society - and to highlight the dangers these animals face from fishing nets and hunting.
“After five hours, we were surrounded by dolphins and whales,” Adam said.
“It was fantastic – it brought home why we were doing it. To see them in their natural habitat was one of the main driving forces for doing it.
“One danced on its tail in front of me and another flipped upside down. A baby swam underneath us - but we had to look up at the right time.
“I saw a fin about five metres away and heard whales calling to each other.”
As the pair swam back towards Spain, they knew that every second counted because the strong tides could scupper their chances of getting back.
Adam said: “When we got to six hours, Emily said, ‘quickly, get in faster. The tide has changed - you need to swim faster’.”
And although the swimmers could see the land, the last leg of the journey proved the most challenging.
Adam said: “I thought we’re not going to make it - I could see land but it did not seem to be getting any closer.
“Then Emily said we had 45 minutes left. I did not realise we had 2km left to do in 45 minutes.
“We did it in half an hour and we had 15 minutes to spare.
“We swam in and I saw the big boat which was always ahead of us. It was parked up and I kept counting 60 strokes.”
Adam completed the swim at 9.09pm, followed two minutes later by Chris.
By swimming the Strait of Gibraltar, Adam and Chris are hoping to raise a total of £3,000 for Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society – and want to do similar challenges in the future to raise more funds.
Adam added: “We want to keep doing these swims for this charity – and they are chuffed to bits.”
To sponsor Adam and Chris or for more information on their challenge visit www.justgiving.com/Swim4Whales. For details on the charity visit www.wdcs.org.uk.