Man could be first to swim from ‘smallest country’

Richard Royal
Richard Royal

A swimmer will take on a 12km challenge in the hope of being the first person ever to swim from the ‘world’s smallest country’ of Sealand.

Richard Royal, who grew up in Bridlington and now lives in Hull, will be the first person to attempt the swim from the offshore platform back to the mainland.

The former member of Bridlington Swimming Club will begin the swim on the morning of Monday August 20 and anticipates that it could take up to six gruelling hours to complete.

The Principality of Sealand is one of the most famous ‘micro-nations’ and is located off the coast of Felixstowe.

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, 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.

“I’ve taken on a number of organised swimming challenges over the years but this is the first I’ve conceived and organised from scratch myself,” Richard said. “It’s down to a combination of my drive to be the ‘first person’ to do something and my slightly geeky interest in political entities like Sealand.

“It’s going to be a really challenging swim, with currents and tides it’s bound to be longer than 12km and that kind of distance non-stop in the North Sea is tough. I’ve been training to increase my endurance over longer distances in open water, but honestly the organisational side of this challenge has taken as much time than the actual swimming element so far.

“Prince Michael of Sealand has been extremely helpful and supportive and I’m hoping to be able to ‘enter the country’ and get my passport stamped before starting the swim!”

Richard first became aware of Sealand 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.
It has taken around two years to organise and gain the necessary permissions.

The swim is expected to be accredited by the World Open Water Swimming Association and British Long Distance Swimming Association.

Richard has previously swum from Alcatraz, taken part in an English Channel Relay and is due to compete at the European Masters Swimming Championships in Slovenia later this year.

Although Richard is taking the swim on as a personal challenge, supporters are welcome to donate to spinal injury charity Aspire, which is helping to provide a free support crew click here.