Swimmer becomes first to ever circumnavigate Great Britain

Ross Edgley’s love of swimming is as strong as ever after becoming the first swimmer to circumnavigate Great Britain on Sunday.

The 33-year-old was joined for the final kilometre of his 1,791-mile, 157-day Great British Swim around the mainland by 400 fellow swimmers in Margate on Sunday.

Edgley left the Kent town on June 1, swimming in a clockwise direction, and his arrival on the beach at 8.40am was his first time on dry land since then.

Edgley, of Grantham, Lincolnshire, is already plotting his next adventure, which could be another swimming exploit, and he would happily pop into the nearest pool.

“It probably won’t be long before I’m putting on a pair of goggles again,” he told the Press Association.

“Honestly, I’d do it tomorrow, just because it’s going to be nice to swim without having to scrape the ice off a cold wetsuit before you have to get in, or to swim without getting stung in the face by a jellyfish.

“I’m in London tonight (Sunday). If there’s a hotel with a swimming pool, I might go for a swim.”

Ross Edgley
Ross Edgley

Swimming up to 12 hours a day, including through the night, he has battled strong tides and currents in cold water, storms, jellyfish and swimming into the chilly autumn.

His efforts have taken their toll on his body, including shoulder pain and wetsuit chafing, plus salt water exposure.

Edgley’s odyssey was compared from the outset to the feat of Captain Matthew Webb, who in 1875 became the first person to swim the English Channel.

But, while more than 1,900 swimmers have since made the crossing, few are likely to follow in Edgley’s wake. Fifty-seven of the swimmers who joined him on Sunday morning have swum the Channel.

Edgley was accompanied by Cornish sailor Matthew Knight, supporting from his catamaran Hecate.

Bruised, battered and now battle tested… tomorrow we hope to finish what we started… the first swim in history around the entire coast of Great Britain 🇬🇧 #GreatBritishSwim There might be tears, there WILL be hugs 🤗But CANNOT wait to celebrate with you all on the beach 🏖 pic.twitter.com/MaKE0y6Mnz

— Ross Edgley (@RossEdgley) November 3, 2018

In planning the adventure, he anticipated it would take 100 days, and told his family and girlfriend Hester Sabery “sorry I’m late” as they greeted him on Sunday alongside hundreds of others on the sand.

He admitted being a bit wobbly after five months either swimming or being on his support boat – and emotional, too, while struggling to find the words to sum up his achievement.

He added: “It wasn’t just me. It wasn’t just one person swimming, even though it was called the Great British Swim.

“I always keep saying ‘what we’ve achieved’ because in no way is it an individual sport. I keep stressing without Matt and the crew, the flotilla coming at the end, it shows swimming isn’t an individual sport in so many ways.

“It’s so lonely in some ways, that solitary confinement, but coming in and seeing everybody was just amazing. I’m just really grateful.”

Ross Edgley
Ross Edgley

He entered the Guinness Book of World Records on August 14, 74 days into the challenge, for the longest staged sea swim, according to the World Open Water Swimming Association.

But Edgley, then at the Isle of Skye, knew the record would only stand if he completed his journey to Margate. Eighty-three days later, he has.

Edgley has chronicled his journey on social media and weekly vlogs for Red Bull, which is backing the challenge, and he has gathered a large following of admirers.

It is Edgley’s latest record-breaking feat. In April 2016, he completed a rope climb equivalent to the height of Mount Everest in 19 hours, two months after taking on a marathon while pulling a car.

He added: “There’s not many sports where you can say come and swim in November on a Sunday morning at seven o’clock, with a guy you’ve never met and swim into Margate.

“There’s loads of people on the beach. That’s just open water swimming. It’s amazing.”


Edgley, who expended more than half-a-million calories on his epic, five-month voyage, consumed over 640 bananas.

He and Knight shared in a moment of reflection before the final swim on Sunday.

“The sunrise at five o’clock at Margate was incredible,” Edgley added.

“We stood there over the galley and were just like ‘wow’. Even then we were already missing it because we knew it was all coming to an end.

“It’s really weird, so many mixed emotions. Relief I didn’t face plant the floor, grateful I can come on land and see my family again.”