Swimming from Sealand

Richard Royal claimed the first official swim from Sealand to England after completing a crossing from the iconic Principality to Felixstowe on 20 August this year.

The Principality of Sealand is one of the world’s most famous ‘micro-nations’. It was originally built as a gun-tower fortress to defend shipping lanes during World War II, during which time it was home to up to 300 Royal Navy personnel. It was decommissioned in 1965 and subsequently occupied by a pirate radio station. As it lay outside of the UK’s 6km borders and therefore fell within international waters, its occupants declared it an independent country, a claim furthered by a 1968 legal case which ruled that it was not subject to UK jurisdiction. Sealand has since introduced its own flag, currency, stamps and national anthem.

Richard, who swims with Hull Masters Swimming Club, first became aware of Sealand and other micro-nations when he was a politics student and has held a long-term fascination with such disputed territories, of which there are many throughout the world.

Before beginning the swim, he boarded Sealand via their mechanical winch (the only way on and off), got his passport stamped and had a cup of tea with Sealand citizens. He then entered the water directly from their ‘land’. He was monitored by a safety boat from East Anglia Sea School and was thrown ‘feeds’ of water, bananas and energy gels every 45 minutes. The swim took 3hrs29mins to complete.

The event took around two years to organise, gain the necessary permissions and arrange for a local pilot to skipper an accompanying safety boat. Richard is also raising money for spinal injury charity Aspire, having first discussed the idea when training in Dover for a Channel Relay swim for them.

“I was really lucky with the conditions on the day,” says Richard. “The sea was very calm for the first hour so I managed to cover over 4km during that time, and I’d planned the swim to coincide with the best tidal conditions so although it got pretty choppy in the middle it didn’t hold me back too much.

“Prince Michael of Sealand and the Royal family have been extremely helpful and supportive throughout the organisation of this event and I feel incredibly privileged to have visited the country and get a super rare stamp in my passport! I’ve also had fantastic support from my team: Paul Parrish from Aspire (who was the first person I discussed the idea with in 2016), Hannah Monaghan and Charles Wahab both of whom I’ve swum with since we were all at Hammersmith Penguin. They all gave up their time to support me and were so great in the preparation and on the day.”

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From left to right: Charles Wahab, Richard Royal, Paul Parrish and Hannah Monaghan

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.