A POPULAR – and bracing – annual charity event which has seen thousands celebrate the New Year by plunging into the freezing seawater at Barry Island has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Organiser and founder Rob Salter said the New Year Day Dip – which has been held in Whitmore Bay on January 1 every year for the past 36 years – would not go ahead in 2021.
Mr Salter took back control of the event from Sully-based charity, Ty Hafan earlier this year.
In July, the charity said it had made the “really difficult decision” to halt its involvement and that it had to continue to care for the children at home and at the hospice as its’ “absolute priority.”
Mr Salter urged people not to unofficially swim on the day and stay safe away from the water.
Mr Salter said: “Unfortunately, due to the ongoing situation regarding Covid-19 the decision has been taken to cancel the 2021 New Year Day Swim at Barry Island.
“The event was recently taken over by Ty Hafan in the hope that they could use it as a fundraiser toward their wonderful work.
“They are a charity that provides end of life care to children.
“They also provide vital support for the families of those children.
“They receive very little funding from the government and need to raise £4.5 million pounds a year to maintain this service.
“Unfortunately, despite the bucket collections, approaching Barry Island Traders for support and providing an option for participants to make a contribution during registration, the 2020 event barely managed to break even and they felt they could not justify the risk of losing money on the event in future.”
Mr Salter took back the reigns in February this year.
“The cost of running the event has been a concern for some time and even without the influence of the current pandemic its future was uncertain,” he said. “Although this has been a fun event for many years there are risks involved and these risks are ultimately the responsibility of the organiser.
“I would urge anyone considering organising their own event to consider this.
“New Year’s Eve is the biggest party night of the year and many turn up for the swim still under the influence or very hungover from the night before, some participants are elderly and some quite young.
“All of these people charge down the beach into icy cold water, the risk of injury or illness is definitely present.
“It just takes someone to trip over a child, a twisted ankle, a heart attack or for someone to get out of their depth in a heavy fancy dress costume.
“Cold Water Shock is a recognised life-threatening condition and can also present a risk.
“It would be foolhardy to arrange this event without the protection of suitable insurance – to protect both the organiser and participant.
“The cost of this is not insignificant and before insurers will commit they will need to be satisfied that suitable risk assessments have been carried out.
“These assessments increase the cost further and will identify certain measures that will need to be in place, these safety measures also incur a cost.
He added: “Aside from the funding implications I was also personally dismayed at the amount of abuse that Ty Hafan employees and volunteers had to endure from people who felt they were entitled to take part in the event without registering – registration was a condition of the insurance policy.
“While registration was free the option to make a small contribution during registration also seemed to anger some people who felt it was acceptable to post abusive comments online.
“For me, this behaviour definitely took the shine off the event.
“The viability of future events will be reviewed in 2021 when a decision will be made on its long-term future.”