THE WORST weather for decades beat even the hardiest of dippers at East Wittering on New Year’s Day.
(Please note, adverse weather conditions affected sound quality)
The annual dip in the sea was cancelled for the first time in 30 years after terrible conditions saw the coastline battered by torrential rain and gale-force winds.
Even Eric Kemp who turned up dressed to dip was forced to beat a wet and windswept retreat.
Waves smashed against the shoreline and organisers did not want people risking their lives in the treacherous waters.
“It was too dangerous,” said joint organiser Mike Conrai, from the 1st Birdham and Witterings Scout Group.
“Nobody would think any better of us if we put lives at risk – especially as we have young people taking part.”
Even a back-up scheme, which would have seen firefighters from the East Wittering station hosing down dippers on the mainland was deemed too risky.
People at the scene said it was not just the wind, or the rain, it was the fact they were combined to create such powerful weather conditions.
Earlier in the week, the Met Office had issued a yellow warning for the area.
The chief forecaster cited an active Atlantic frontal system and deepening area of low pressure that was expected to push northeastwards across the UK yesterday, followed by active troughs. This especially affected south-facing coasts, and East Wittering was one of many to feel the tremendous force of the weather front.
The cancellation was particularly hard on the 1st Birdham and Witterings Scout Group, who fundraise about half their annual income from the event.
“It’s one of those things,” conceded Mr Conrai. “You can’t beat the weather.”
He said hopefully the group could put something on at Easter.
Nevertheless, he added the impact on the group would be tough – especially as it hopes to raise enough money for a new scout hut as well.
“It’s the first time we’ve had to cancel,” he said. “It’s 50 per cent of our annual fundraising.
“This is going to be devastating to us, because it’s so much a part of our funding at the moment.”
He said the group had seen the event grow from a little village event, which drew in around ten people going for a dip, to more than 80 last year, with more than 3,500 spectators watching from the shoreline.