ELEVEN friends swam for four and a half hours to successfully complete what they believe is the first-ever swim around Portland .

The adventurers were inspired by the Paralympics to take on the gruelling nine-mile challenge in aid of the MV Freedom charity, which enables disabled people to experience the thrill of the sea.

The challenge went ahead despite the drama of the group’s safety boat – MV Freedom – pulling out at the last minute, having decided the course was ‘too dangerous’.

Weymouth Whitewater came to the rescue and provided a safety boat to assist the 11 swimming friends, Matt Flux, Noel Barrington, Dave Payne, Keith Bendall, Dave Parker, Simon Davies, Phillip Bowden, Tim Edwards, Wayne Night, Gordon Sharpe and Oliver Wilson.

The swimmers set off from Balaclava Bay on the island’s east side and powered around to beach by the Cove House Inn on the west side after negotiating the treacherous currents off Portland Bill .

Swimmer Dave Payne said all safety aspects had been carefully planned.

He said: “We decided on the MV Freedom charity after being inspired by the Paralympics and loved the idea of helping disabled people get onto the water.

“Because the tides around Portland are so treacherous we had to do lots of planning and fortunately we had some members from HM Coastguard to help with the safety advice. With just two days to go the MV Freedom boat which was going to act as the main safety vessel decided the swim was too dangerous and pulled out, with all the planning done and near perfect weather forecast for the coming days the decision to find another safety boat was made, but finding another safety boat was thought to be unlikely.

“Within one hour Ian from Weymouth Whitewater came to the rescue.

“Weymouth Whitewater kindly agreed to attend throughout the swim starting with the trip from Weymouth Harbour at 7.30am out to the starting point at Balaclava Bay for the swim to start at 8am prompt.

“An additional small safety boat and two kayakers were also in attendance.”