Despite the chilly conditions, some 530 people decided to swim in The Solent on New Year's Day to raise money for Gosport's independent lifeboat station

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, a caveman, a Christmas pudding and countless jockeys joined more than 500 others who chose to swim The Solent on New Year’s Day…all for a good cause.

The Gosport & Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (GAFIRS) New Year’s Day Swim was the most popular ever held by the charity.

Around 530 brave bathers decided to take the plunge.

Ladies dressed as Where's Wally

L-R: Helen Crofts, Emma Hearnden and Cecily Craven prepare to take the plunge. Credit: GAFIRS

The swimmers raised money for GAFIRS, Gosport’s independent lifeboat station, as well as 21 other charities.

The chairman of GAFIRS, Keith Thomas said: “It was certainly a chilly dip for those swimmers that took the plunge, but the smiling faces on those taking part makes it all worthwhile.”

“This year was our most popular swim ever with more than 500 taking to the water,” he continued.

“We are delighted so many chose to raise money for GAFIRS, their local independent lifeboat, and support so many other great causes too,” added Thomas.

swimmers enter the water

Taking the plunge. Credit: GAFIRS

The swimmers, many of whom were wearing wacky fancy dress costumes, were watched by around 2,000 spectators.

Before they dived in, Gosport independent lifeboat, the Joan Dora Fuller, Gosport inshore lifeboat, the Ian Fuller, and the Coastguard helicopter, Rescue 104, carried out a training exercise to showcase their work.

swimmers in the sea

Enjoying the icy conditions. Credit: GAFIRS

One swimmer, Nicola Goulder and 10 of her friends, took to the water moments later in aid of “Leah’s Lifeline”, a cause raising money for sick Leah Boxall who needs £60,000 to travel to Spain for a lifesaving operation.

“My word that was cold, but it was well worth the effort,” commented Goulder after getting out of the water.

“We have raised £400 by taking the dip which will help Leah on her way to that grand total she needs to get to Spain for a vital operation,” she added.

Another swimmer, Helen Crofts, who was raising money for GAFIRS with two of her friends, said: “I can’t believe how cold the water was, but it was a great way to see in the New Year and raise some money for our local lifeboat which does such great work.”

In total, GAFIRS collected an impressive £2,858 on the day, while local pubs The Fighting Cocks and Seahorse added £521 to that total by offering swimmers food and drinks in exchange for a donation.

people swimming in the sea

Some of the swimmers. Credit: GAFIRS

Gosport Cruising Club honorary secretary, Iris Davis, who raised £100 for GAFIRS, said: “The work which GAFIRS voluntary crews undertake in respect of beach and sea emergencies is much appreciated by all of us who enjoy being beside, and on, the sea.”

GAFIRS carried out 112 rescues in 2016 and is one of the busiest lifeboat stations in the UK.

It is manned entirely by volunteers on pager call out to the Coastguard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Last year volunteers gave up more than 12,000 hours for the charity.