Senior Maritime Instructor Anthony Greener found the perfect marriage between his almost 20 years as a seafarer and an interest in outdoor swimming when he founded the Annual Tyne River Swim in northern England.
He intended the Annual Tyne River Swim to be a fundraiser for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), a search and rescue charity that on average saves 22 people a day around the coastal areas of the UK and Ireland.
“I chose to support the RNLI because they save lives at sea”, says Greener. “Having sailed on ships for years, I have gained a clear understanding of just how important rescue services are. What is special about the RNLI is that most of their staff are volunteers and each year they save around 300 lives.”
Now in its third year, Greener first pitched his idea to the RNLI in 2011 and not only gained their support, but also their assistance in providing rescuel aid during the event.
More than a cold swim
The event was a natural choice for Greener, who has been swimming outdoors for most of his life . As can be expected, swimming in the winter – even with a wetsuit on – is a tough challenge. Greener admits to enjoying swimming in bone-chilling temperatures as low as four degrees Celcius and the Tyne Swim taking upwards of three hours can create some difficult physical challenges such as cramps in the legs muscles and severe fatigue. There are other conditions that participants must contend with and not all are able to complete the ten miles.
“The water isn’t calm all the time. You sometimes get a swell that’s about a metre and a half high. The sheer effort of having to keep adapting to differingr water conditions you find yourself in can be tough”, says Greener.
Because the area they are swimming is a commercial river, Port Authority provides a level of guidance to the participants during the event, but swimmers still need to be alert to any ships passing through.
Swims 20 kilometres a week
To combat all the things that could go wrong in the water, training is year-round. On average, Greener swims 20 kilometres a week, and will increase this in the weeks leading to the Tyne River Swim.
A seafarer at heart, Greener reluctantly took a shore-based position in 1996, but moved to maritime training last year. He has since designed and taught four different courses for Maersk employees. He confesses that his view of training has changed radically since:
“In the past, I thought of training as a necessary evil, but in retrospect you understand why and how it ultimately benefits the trainee. It’s also empowering to get up in front of people and realise that you’re making a difference.”
Anthony Greener in brief:
- Age: 55
- Nationality: British
- Education: Engineering cadetship, Chief Engineer Certificate (Steam and Motor)
- First job: Engineering cadet on Princess Cruises ‘MV Sun Princess’
- Interests: Recreational and competitive swimming, running, hill walking and music