Claire combats a sea of phobias for charity

Claire Thorburn in training for her charity swim from Inner Farne to the coast.
Claire Thorburn in training for her charity swim from Inner Farne to the coast.

Shark-fearing Claire Thorburn admits the theme tune to Jaws will be haunting her as she bids to swim from the Farne Islands to mainland Northumberland later this month for charity.

But public relations consultant Claire, 40, of Bamburgh, is refusing to let her phobias of sharks, jellyfish and not being able to see the seabed deter her from setting out from Inner Farne to the coast on August 29.

Claire in training.

Claire in training.

“I had a moment of madness 10 years ago which saw me pledge to swim from The Farne Islands to the mainland. I was told at the time – and still am even today – that it’s impossible, which is rather like a red rag to a bull for me.

“I’m now 40, so I decided enough procrastination and more action and contacted a local open water swimming group to see if the swim was indeed possible and to help with training.

“Although very few people have done this swim, volunteer coastguard Jane Hardy, of Alnwick Sea Swim and Blyth and District All Season Swimmers, has completed it.

“She and fellow open water swimmers Jill Henderson and Sylvia Bland have really taken me under their wing to help me train. They will also be my fellow ‘mermaid wing-women’ when we set off from Inner Farne on the 29th.”

Although the distance they are planning to swim is only around 1.5 miles as the crow flies, the strong currents make swimming from the islands to the mainland very difficult and the distance they will swim could be double or treble that.

“Staying safe is first and foremost in everyone’s minds,” said Claire. “William Shiel, of Billy Shiel’s Farne Island Boat Tours, kindly helped us find the optimum date and time when the tides and currents are in our favour. One of William’s boats will be our support vessel.”

Claire, who owns Impact PR & Marketing, said: “I’ve been training by swimming in the North Sea and lakes with the girls which has been interesting.

“I’ve been rubbed raw by my wetsuit, stung by jelly fish and bitten by duck mites but met some inspirational people who have become great friends. .

“I am excited but terrified about the challenge. But I know I will just have to keep swimming, remember to breathe and think of the large gin and tonic that awaits me!”

Claire is raising funds for The Alzheimer’s Society and The British Divers Marine Life Rescue charities. Support Claire and her Farne Islands Mermaid Swim by going to www.justgiving.com/teams/ClaireThorburn