Two school friends from Bridlington and a record-breaking swim

Rob Barker of Barksy Media and Richard Royal holding the Sealand flag on Felixstowe beach after the swim.
Rob Barker of Barksy Media and Richard Royal holding the Sealand flag on Felixstowe beach after the swim.

A documentary film has been released which follows the journey of former Bridlington man Richard Royal, who became the first person to swim from the world’s smallest country.

Last year, he took to the water off the Principality of Sealand, located in the North Sea, 7.5 miles off the east coast.

The 14-minute film, ‘Escape from Sealand’ has been produced by Yorkshire film-maker Robert Barker was on-board the support craft on the day.

Robert and Richard are old friends from Headlands School in Bridlington and have collaborated on a number of video projects in recent years.

Richard, who first started in the sport at Bridlington Swimming Club, and is now a member of Hull Masters Swimming Club and Humberside Water Polo Team, became the first person to complete the daring crossing from the offshore platform back to the mainland, finishing the 12km swim in around three-and-a-half hours last August.

The accolade has since been recognised as a British and World inaugural swim and record by the British Long Distance Swimming Association and the World Open Water Swimming Association.

Richard Royal swam across the Humber in a previous challenge

Richard Royal swam across the Humber in a previous challenge

Richard was also knighted by Sealand as a result and the swim raised money for spinal injury charity Aspire.

He said: "I’m really pleased that we had Rob on board videoing the day, and that there is now a fantastic film as a keepsake of the event.

"I hope that others watch it and are inspired to try open water swimming, which is a fantastic sport for body and mind. I’ve already heard of a young local swimmer who has become more committed to swimming lessons as a result of watching this, which I think is brilliant."

The film documents the day of the swim, showing the boat journey from Felixstowe to Sealand, the swimmer’s precarious 70ft ascent onto the micro-nation’s concrete and metal structure, his swim back across the calm North Sea past ocean tankers and fishing boats, and the greeting he received when landing on the beach.

The video Escape From Sealand is available to watch on YouTube

The video Escape From Sealand is available to watch on YouTube

It also contains an exclusive interview with Richard and original 1950s archive footage of the principality’s origins.

Film-maker Rob Barker said: “It was great to be on the boat that day and to document history in the making. I wasn’t even aware of Sealand beforehand but it has a fascinating back story so I jumped at the chance.

"There were some real challenges from a videography perspective, I had to be very selective about what equipment I took on-board and trying to hold it steady on a small RIB in the middle of the sea was pretty tough.

“My intention was to create a film that not only captured the swim, but also got inside the mind of the swimmer, and shone a light on both the open water swimming orld and Sealand itself.”

Richard said that the film masks the challenges the pair faced, adding: “Rob’s steady hand and expert editing has made it look a lot shorter and easier than it actually was.”

The Principality of Sealand is one of the world’s most famous ‘micro-nations’.

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 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.