Open water swim bid for two Simons

left Simon Wilkes who is possibly the first blind man to attempt the Great East Swim. right Simon Smith his guide, who did the swim last year.
left Simon Wilkes who is possibly the first blind man to attempt the Great East Swim. right Simon Smith his guide, who did the swim last year.

A March resident is possibly the first blind man to take on a mass participation outdoor swim event.

Simon Wilkes will be amongst thousands of keen swimmers who will head to Alton Water in Suffolk on June 22 for the Great East Swim.

Simon (34), who has been blind since birth, is a big fan of open water swimming and is itching to get in the water on the day.

He will be guided by March cabbie Simon Smith, who did the swim himself last year.

Simon said: “I am really looking forward to it. I am not doing it as a race or competition. I am just doing it because I enjoy it and I will get to raise some money at the same time.”

Simon, who moved to March last year, is fundraising for the London Sports Club for the Blind. He has been chairperson of the club for the past three years and really wants to give it a boost.

The club currently offers indoor swimming, rowing and ten pin bowling, as well as an activity holiday every year. These activities are heavily subsidised for members. But Simon wants to bring in more sports, such as dry slope skiing, outdoor swimming, judo and archery.

“It needs money and organising. But funding is the main thing to get,” he said.

Simon’s swim has been aided by Mr Smith, who raised almost £700 for Macmillan last year. Mr Smith works for Dart Taxis and met Simon when he picked him up from the train station.

Simon said: “I had heard about him from the other drivers but it was chance when he picked me up. We got talking and he said he was looking for someone to do open water swimming with, as was I. He then suggested doing the Great East Swim.

“I jump at any opportunity to do open water swimming, so I said yes.”

The swim itself will present some challenges not yet faced by the duo, with up to 3,000 people taking part in the event.

But Mr Smith said their strategy will be to hang back and stay out of the “blender”, which is a writhing mass of elite swimmers each trying to get to the front.

There will be safety kayaks around the swimmers and Mr Smith said one may hover near them to make sure they don’t get into difficulties.

If anyone would like to donate to Simon’s fundraising attempt, you can do so through the Citizen office at 11 Union Street, Wisbech.