Steve Riches, and Robert Howlett.

By Natalie Copeland

From one seaside town to another, two King’s Lynn men have swum The Wash.

Robert Howlett, 43, and Steve Riches, 55, set a new record by swimming from Skegness, Lincolnshire to Hunstanton in six hours and 19 minutes.

They believe they are the first swimmers to complete the challenge since 1976.

Mr Howlett, managing director at Rise Scaffold Services in Lynn, said: “We were pleased we did it within that time. Another half an hour longer, the tide would have turned against us.”

Around five years ago, Mr Howlett was advised by his doctor to take up swimming after undergoing an operation on his back.

His progression in open water soon saw him swim Lake Windermere and then make the decision to swim The Wash.

After two years of planning, Mr Howlett and Mr Riches, who works for Anglian Water, took the plunge in the 18 degree water at 8am last Sunday.

They were joined by a pilot boat and two official observers who monitored the swim.

“They also had to check we weren’t wearing wet suits, no buoyancy aids and we weren’t allowed to touch the boat,” added Mr Howlett.

Around every 45 minutes the swimmers stopped to take energy fluids and gels while they were treading water.

“We tried to do that in less than a minute. The biggest fear was cramp which Steve did have two hours into the swim. You just have to deal with it as best you can. And as it wasn’t an organised swim and we organised it ourselves, it was more of an adventure.”

The keen swimmers have already been back in the pool since their challenge.

They are now training for a 21km swim in Sweden next month.

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