New Year's Day dip raises funds for lifeboat charity

Revellers have braved the cold seas for a New Year's Day dip to raise money for an independent lifeboat charity.

A total of 384 bathers signed up to take part in the charity swim in the Solent at Stokes Bay, Gosport, Hampshire, which raises about £4,000 each year for the Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (Gafirs).

Fundraising officer James Baggott said: "It's one of those strange, local traditions where people in the local area decide to take a dip in the Solent - but it's a great way for us of raising funds and showing the local community that we are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, on duty to save lives.

"We are not part of the RNLI so events like this are really important for us to raise money.

"There was a bit of a rush last night with people signing up, as people had a bit of Dutch courage and were encouraged by their friends to join in."

He added: "There is quite a lot of bravado with people encouraging each other to go in - but when they do, they realise how cold the water is. It's quite a shock, so people don't spend very long in the water.

"It's more of a New Year's paddle than a swim."

Participant Jade Slater, 21, a student nurse, said: "I always take part, it's a bit crazy but it's great fun and a great way to start the new year and to raise money for charity as well."

The Gafirs independent lifeboat station is run by 90 volunteers who last year gave 12,000 hours of their time to the service.

Donations can be made at the charity's website, gafirs.org.uk.

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