Virginia Furness took part in the world’s oldest swimming race to raise £1,631.28 for R.A.B.I and Supporting Wounded Veterans.
Virginia tackled the Turkish Hellespont, a cross-continental 4.5km open water swim from Europe to Asia; across the Dardanelles strait, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world which is closed for the annual ‘Victory Day’ race. The Hellespont is celebrated in Greek mythology as the strait Leander swam across to reach his lover Hero.
“Swimming out into the open sea is utterly terrifying and magical,” said Virginia, pictured right of photo.
“Your mind goes to all sorts of places. I kept thinking about the war ships which sank in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns, and about Lord Byron and Patrick Leigh Fermor who both made the crossing.”
There were people from 40 different nationalities competing and many were following in the slipstreams of their literary heroes. Virginia was fit enough for the swim from all her training but understandably wary of the strait’s infamous currents. She battled through bravely and found herself being escorted by a Turkish fishing boat.
She said: “Somehow, 700 swimmers completely disappeared and I was on my own for the whole thing. It was quite a journey.”
Ahead of the swim, Virginia admits she asked herself ‘What on earth am I doing?’ She explained: “After a totally sleepless night, we had to get up at 5:30am and stuff down a filthy breakfast. Then we discarded our clothes and got a ferry across to the European side. It was bizarre being crammed into a ferry with everyone in nothing but swimming things!”
Out of 700 starters, 140 failed to finish.