By Connor Steel
SWIMMERS have been left disappointed as it was announced on Wednesday that the annual New Year swim at Stokes Bay has been cancelled due to concerns over a rise in Covid-19 Omicron cases in Gosport and Fareham recently.
Organised by the Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (GAFIRS) the yearly New Year events usually sees hundreds of brave people plunge into the freezing winter seawater for charity; raising an average of £5,000 for the life-saving organisation.
GAFIRS celebrated their fifty-year anniversary of service in early 2020, attending more than two thousand incidents and saving over 100 lives in the process; but sadly won’t be able to celebrate with the community on January 1, 2022.
They confirmed the news via a Facebook post on Wednesday evening, saying; “Thank you to all our supporters who have been eagerly waiting for an announcement about our annual New Year’s Swim, for your patience and we are sorry there has been so much uncertainty”.
“As you can understand, we have been waiting to see what the final Government advice was for events over the New Year period to enable us to plan accordingly and a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes planning”.
“Whilst legally, we can run the event as usual, as a lifesaving service, our absolute priority remains the safety of the general public and our ability to continue to operate a lifesaving service to HM Coastguard and our Community. With this in mind, and the current rise in COVID infections, we feel that the event cannot run as it normally does this year.”
Despite the cancellation GAFIRS are hoping that people can still visit Stokes Bay beaches and enjoy a refreshing start to 2022 with friends or family members. Their duty crew will be on station as normal over the Bank Holiday weekend, but they cannot open the station as a changing facility or have the annual catering provided by The Fighting Cocks.
The rescue service said that they hoped the 2023 event will go ahead as normal, with 2021’s edition also cancelled due to Covid-19 as the country prepared for another lockdown. They said: “We are truly going to miss celebrating the New Year with you and the fantastic range of fancy dress that we see every year, but hopefully 2023 will see our event back to full capacity”.
Readers can donate to GAFIRS by visiting http://gafirs.org.uk/donate or by texting the word LIFEBOAT to 70580, which will donate £5 to the organisation run by volunteers to help perform life-saving and emergency rescues.
PICTURED BY TOM CLARK: Darth Vader shows the force is strong on New Years Day 2017 annual event