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Charity event: Rhine swim by torchlight

Charity event : Rhine swim by torchlight

24 swimmers took part in a torchlit Rhine swim for charity on Sunday night. Santa hats were optional.

We usually associate unusual light phenomena on water more with sagas and legends but those who saw a fireglow and bright lights on the Rhine on Sunday evening were not mistaken. 24 men and women took part in the 14 th Torch Swim, swimming more than two kilometres down the Rhine from the Beuel jetty with torches and glow sticks.

Organiser Valerie Wehage said: “The people who take part are crazy and tradition-conscious. But participants must also be fit divers and swimmers.” Those wanting to take part needed a wetsuit, flippers and the ten euro participants’ fee. “What is left over once the torches and so on have been bought is donated to charity.” This year, the amount will go to the Sea Watch organisation, which rescues migrants in distress in the Mediterranean.

Alex Böhnert was taking part for the fourth or fifth time. “It’s fun – and the atmosphere in the run up to Christmas, with torches on the Rhine, that’s something really special,” says the 37-year-old physicist.

So how do you swim with a torch in your hand? “It’s more of a float than a swim,” explains Böhnert. “The wetsuit itself is very buoyant and you almost swim without trying.” Most swimmers lie relaxed on their backs. “Then we have our hands free for the torch.” They only need to swim a little towards the bank at the end.

The swimmers were all in high spirits, shouting and cheering. Despite the happy atmosphere, swimming in the Rhine can be life threatening and the group was accompanied by two boats from the water safety authorities.

But isn’t it much too cold to be swimming in the Rhine on a December evening? “Today it is supposed to be 6.5 degrees Celsius. It’s particularly uncomfortable at the start, when the water starts to slowly run into your suit,” explains Böhnert. His feet got especially cold.

Tobias Henning joined the swim for the first time. The 27-year-old is studying geography in Bonn. “I simply want to see what it’s like,” he said. “Others go parachuting, I’m doing this.” He was not scared as he dives regularly. He was happy when he came out of the water: “It was great! Unfortunately my torch went out early on because of the wind.”

Patrick Junge also took part in the swim and as last year wore a Santa hat with an illuminated Christmas tree on it. It also made it unscathed to the end of the half hour journey.

(Original text: Alexander Grantl. Translated by Kate Carey.)