British ex-soldier takes on 11km charity swim around Palm Jumeirah

Months of training end on November 20 as Will Follett aims to raise Dh20,000 for children's home

Jellyfish and strong currents are only some of the challenges facing former British soldier Will Follett as he attempts to swim 11 kilometres around Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

If he succeeds, the father of two, 41, will become the fifth person to complete the feat.

Mr Follett hopes his long-distance challenge can be completed in under four hours and he can raise Dh20,000 ($5,445) for the Gulf for Good UAE charity to support an orphanage in Tanzania.

Months of training will culminate on November 20, when he pulls on his trunks and dives into the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf.

Mr Follett will swim alongside a safety boat and two kayaks, in front and behind him. Water temperatures are around 30°C, so keeping cool will be a major part of the challenge.

“The last attempt to swim around The Palm was about five years ago, so it doesn’t happen very often,” he said.

“It has been like swimming in a bath in recent months but it is getting cooler.

“This will be the longest swim I have taken on, so rehydration is very important.

“I set off on a recent training swim from The Palm Residences and within five minutes I had been stung by a jellyfish.

“On that route, I was stung about five times in total. Once you’re swimming, the adrenaline kicks in and the pain soon wears off.”

His support crew will have vinegar on hand to deactivate the venom that jellyfish release, as well as plenty of water, dehydration salts and energy gels.

It will not be Mr Follett’s first long-distance, open-water swim in the region, having taken on the 4km Al Fahal Island swim in Oman six years ago.

That took him 70 minutes but the Palm swim is likely to take four times as long.

Five years of service in the British Army with the light infantry saw him stationed in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq. He left the military in 2006 and emigrated to Dubai a year later.

Now working for security and crisis management group Restrata, the company’s tracking equipment will be used to monitor his swim while he is in the water.

Funds raised will provide support for children living at Larchfield Children’s Home in Mkuranga, south of the Tanzanian capital, Dar-es-Salaam.

The orphanage was established by private donors in 2011, to help Tanzanian children abandoned by their parents.

Money is raised by the UAE-registered Gulf for Good charity, with 75 per cent donated to Larchfield Children’s Home, 15 per cent to the charity and 10 per cent towards International Humanitarian City for its emergency response work.

“It was not just about the challenge but the output,” said Mr Follett, who will be supported during the challenge by his wife and former military colleagues.

“Having been to Tanzania with Restrata, the children’s home struck a chord.

“I enjoy swimming and not many people have swum around The Palm so it was an interesting challenge.

“I have lived here for 14 years now and it is such an iconic symbol of Dubai, it seemed the perfect way to gather interest in the cause.”

Updated: November 7th 2021, 4:58 AM