A brave swimmer has taken part in an audacious escape attempt from one of the world’s most notorious prisons to raise money for YoungMinds.
Richard Royal swam from Alcatraz Island, home to the ‘inescapable’ famous former federal prison, to the San Francisco mainland.
The iconic event is a 2.5k (1.5 miles or 100 continuous lengths of a standard pool) swim in the rough waters which can reach lows of 12c and in parts is over 100 metres deep.
Alcatraz Island, also known as 'The Rock' was used as a high security prison until 1963 and housed some of America’s most dangerous criminals including Al Capone. It was considered the 'prison of prisons' due to its isolation and the surrounding cold, hazardous and allegedly shark infested waters, with currents of up to 8mph that can sweep a person 3 miles under the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Pacific Ocean within an hour. Great White Sharks have been tracked entering the bay from their nearby feeding ground of the Farallon Islands.
During its years of operation, a total of 36 prisoners made unsuccessful escape attempts, with several drowning in the bay. The 1979 film 'Escape from Alcatraz' starring Clint Eastwood features the events of one such escape.
Richard is a competitive pool and open-water swimmer who swam for the County of Yorkshire and Lancaster University, and is currently Manager of West London Penguins Masters Swimming Team.
He has taken part in several ‘Great Mile’ swims, the night-time ‘Henley Classic’ along its regatta course, and a 3.6k swim along the Thames at Hampton Court Palace. In 2011 he raised £1,600 for another mental health charity by taking part in the Great London Swim in the Victoria Docks.
He competed against hundreds of others including English Channel world record holder Trent Grimsey at Alcatraz, which is the 19th annual invitational event hosted by San Francisco’s historic South End Rowing Club, established in 1873.
“I’ve done plenty of open water swims before, but this one did make me anxious simply because of the history and notoriety of the location. It’s also difficult to experience similarly cold and rough water, even in the British seas. The race starts with quite a significant jump straight into the dark chilly water which was quite a shock to the system.
“I try to focus my thinking on the money I’m raising for this important cause. Mental health is a hugely misunderstood issue which doesn’t get enough resources or attention given to it. Young people in particular really need support in this area, often at vital formative points in their lives and with increasing dangers such as cyber-bullying.”
Richard is a Senior Corporate Affairs Manager at soft drinks company Britvic, who have donated £250 to the cause. He is also an approved Conservative Party Parliamentary Candidate who hopes to stand at the General Election in 2015.
We'd like to say an enormously aquatic and hearty CONGRATULATIONS and THANKS to Richard for conquering this massive challenge and raising a mighty £1,581.08! Excellent stuff!