At approximately 8.40am on Monday 10th March Roland Gauvain, Manager of the Alderney Wildlife Trust, set off from the Braye Breakwater to be the second only recorded person to swim across the Alderney Swinge to the wildlife haven of Burhou. The swim lasted 1hr and 26minutes with Roland swimming to the northern side of Burhou before landing on an inlet adjacent to that which had seen the wreck of the local boat Lady Maris some 5 years earlier.
The total distance covered is estimated to be just under 2.5 nautical miles, with only a slight deviation from a straight line course made possible by the navigational skills of Dave McAllister (Alderney Wet Fish Shop) and Rowland Neal. Conditions for the swim were good with the wind around 12-13 knots and a ground sea of around 2ft making reasonable, if not ideal, conditions. However once the team reached Burhou it proved impossible to land AWT staff to join Roland in surveying the island to check on the state of the seabird colony sites, as a significant swell threatened to swamp the team’s support boat. Instead Roland carried out a brief inspection and discovered significant damage caused by waves, rain and wind; this included flooding of sections of the Puffin burrows, damage to the fendering put out by the AWT to help people land on the island and large amounts of rubbish washed up on the island.
Because of the conditions Roland had to put paid to his hair-brained last minute scheme to swim back to Alderney and the team returned in the guide boat, reaching Braye Harbour just after 11am.
In total the attempt has so far raised pledges of over £4,500, with more sponsorship received since the swim was completed. This money is a much needed boost to the small local charity and will be used to support its nature conservation work, especially its marine and seabird monitoring programme in light of the recent seabird wreck which has seen around 30,000 birds stranded, either dead or injured, on the beaches of France and the British Isles.
Roland said on completion of the swim:
I’m extremely pleased to have been able to manage the swim and very proud and grateful for all the support I have received. However, the damage I saw on reaching Burhou just emphasised what a difficult and important year 2014 will be for wildlife and humans around the Bailiwick. The funds raised by this swim will be of significant help in our support for our wildlife at this difficult time!
It is still possible to pledge online by going to Swim to Burhou by filling in the form below.