A freezing swim across the ‘world’s most peaceful border’

Joanna Griffin wins our weekly just returned go back and forth writing competition – and £250 – for her tale of a cold dip in Arctic waters.

it is 11pm in Finnish Lapland and among the many long grass and wildflowers beside the Torne river, a game of tug-of-battle is taking area; Finns in opposition t Swedes. The battle is short; the Finns are pulled to the ground inside seconds and a small team from England steps as much as take on the winners.

“No opportunity,” I suppose, as they steal their locations opposite the successful Swedes, but Marianne – the Swedish director of the evening’s pursuits – mentions contemporary movements in soccer, and this steels their resolve. After a combat, the English heave the Swedes to their idn poker defeat and a pretty good-natured cheer fills the night air.

The Nordic solar dips extra, the late evening shadows lengthen and the wild delphiniums glow one hundred shades of blue in the fading easy. right here, simply north of the Arctic Circle, the sun will simplest set for a short while and it received’t get dark. in precisely over an hour, we’ll plunge into the river and swim the 1.9 miles 3km again to Sweden.

We’re right here for the Arctic Circle swim from the Finnish village of Juoksenki to the Swedish village of Juoksengi on the opposite bank. as soon as a single village, both aspects separated simplest via the fast-flowing Torne were divided in 1809 when Finland changed into ceded by way of Sweden to Russia and the border was drawn down the centre of the river. In iciness, the villages are joined by way of an “ice street” throughout the frozen water, however now it is a 40-minute force by the use of probably the most bridges.

The race briefing begins and Marianne does a sterling job of conveying security information in two languages. “It has been a sizzling summer time,” she pronounces in a little bit stilted English. “The water is 71F 22C: swimsuits are not obligatory.” The swimmers giggle as someone faucets her on the shoulder and tells her he thinks she might really imply “wetsuits”.

The starting horn sounds and 100 swimmers inaugurate their adventure throughout the hour of darkness river. At some point we foul “the world’s most peaceful border” and it doesn’t get extra unruffled than this. I’m carried south on the fellow present, and as I turn to breathe I trap sight of the support boats silhouetted in opposition t the briefly atmosphere solar.

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