A HARDY hotelier is part of a group of four who have set the ambitious goal of swimming from Europe to Africa in the name of charity.

James Stuart, the CEO of the Califa Group, will brave the treacherous seas in the Strait of Gibraltar this Friday – winds permitting – to raise funds for children with cancer in India through the Vicente Ferrer foundation.

Stuart told the Olive Press he was feeling ‘nervous but confident’ ahead of the gruelling challenge that was originally planned for before the pandemic. 

The delay turned out to be ‘a blessing in disguise’ as it gave him more time to prepare for the epic 15km swim from the Isla de la Palomas near Tarifa to the Moroccan mainland.

James Stuart, Califa Group CEO
James Stuart, 60, is the CEO of Califa Group, based in Vejer de la Frontera

The 60-year-old has been training for the event since 2019, and in the last three months he has been swimming 15 to 20km a week.

It is hoped the training will be enough to maintain the minimum necessary pace of three kilometres per hour across five hours – all the while battling winds, waves and currents.

“If you don’t swim fast enough you get pushed into the Mediterranean by the currents,” Stuart said two days ahead of the swim.

And there are a myriad of dangers he and his fellow swimmers will need to navigate during the great challenge – starting with the enormous tankers and cargo ships that criss-cross the Strait.

“Fortunately, the organisers of the swim have co-ordinated with the maritime traffic control in Tarifa and Tangier to plot a route that – hopefully – won’t take us into the path of a 100,000-tonne container ship,” Stuart said.

They will also need to dodge sharks – including great whites – that pass through the narrow gap between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

James Stuart (right) training with friends in the toasty waters off Tarifa ahead of their epic 15-20km swim to Morocco

“I’m not worried about sharks, they just don’t attack people in the Med. You have to look at it with a cold head,” Stuart said, who will have two boats accompanying him the whole way to navigate and spot for dangers.

And then, of course, there’s the marauding orcas. The waters off the coast of Cadiz have become their favourite hunting ground in their war against yachts.

“But there’s never been a recorded attack by orcas in the wild on a human ever.”

A more pressing danger will be jellyfish, with occasional Portuguese Man o’ Wars spotted recently in the area. But Stuart is still insouciant.

“If we see one, we’ll just swim round it,” the company CEO declared.

He will be accompanied on his daring endeavour by Iñaki Guezuraga, Ricardo Arana and Ignacio Soto.

You can donate to the cause here. All funds raised will make it possible to provide medical treatment to 32 children from rural villages with cancer and / or renal diseases, with 100% of the amount donated being transferred to the project.


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