March man - born with no eyes - named 'merman' after winning Arthur Rank Hospice's fundraising swimming competition
PUBLISHED: 09:58 23 May 2018 | UPDATED: 09:58 23 May 2018
A March man who was born with no eyes has been called a 'merman' by organisers of a fundraising swimming competition after he scooped first place.
Simon Wilkes was one of 26 swimmers to take part in The Big Shiver, an event put on to raise money for the Arthur Rank Hospice, on Friday (May 11).
The 39-year-old swam up and down Europe’s longest unheated outdoor pool in temperatures of just 15 degrees for three hours at Jesus Green Lido in Cambridge.
Mr Wilkes said: “I really love open water swimming so much. It gives me such a sense of freedom and liberation.
“I can move in three dimensions and go under the water as well as I’m not having to always to worry about the cane in front in of me, because I’m not going to fall.
“It also gets me closer to wildlife and nature; being totally blind that’s not so easy.”
Simon swam 58 lengths, totalling a massive 5,301 metres, or 3.29 miles.
He added: “I stick to outdoor swimming specifically: the indoor pools are quite often full of noise and echoes, so I can’t use my hearing, but with open water swimming you can use sound navigation.
“Usually it’s a case of anywhere I can get to: a river; lake; the sea; a big enough pond; a lido. With Lido’s I usually pick a rainy, over-cast day: there’s less people then as all the fair-weather swimmers are put off.”
Arthur Rank Hospice’s community fundraisers teamed up with Better, who operate Jesus Green Lido to host their first ever outdoor swim challenge – The Big Shiver - the day before the pool opened to the public for the summer season.
At 91.4 metres, the pool is four times the length of an average swimming pool.
Amy Bidwell, community fundraiser at Arthur Rank Hospice, said: “Whilst Jesus Green Lido wasn’t quite as cold as Simon is used to – and actually was a bit warmer than the usual water temperatures at this time of year, hitting 15 degrees C rather than just 8 - it was a still a huge challenge for all those taking part.
“From what we’ve been told, the initial shock of it was the hardest part and then we were told that ‘it’s okay once you’re in’.
“Collectively it looks like we’ll have raised at least £2000 for the Hospice - they’re all Team Arthur heroes.”
Simon added: “I’ll definitely be signing up again next year. The people were great and the distance that I did seemed to impress a lot of them.
“I felt absolutely super afterwards; like I’d had a really good work out. I felt invigorated and pumped up as I often do after a really decent swim and had the perfect meal for a merman that evening: monkfish and prawns.”