Organisers behind Sidmouth’s popular Boxing Day Swim have warned there is a ‘strong possibility’ the event will not take place this year.

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Gale force winds are predicted to lash the south coast over the Christmas period, prompting concerns over rough seas and swimmer safety.

The warning comes just days after organisers told the Herald they were expecting a record number of revellers for the event on December 26.

A swim spokesman said on Wednesday: “At the moment it is seriously in doubt - we’ve been looking at the advance weather forecasts and they all predict severe gales.

“We will consult with Sidmouth Lifeboat, but if they express any doubts over the safety of the event then it won’t go ahead - health and safety being what it is, we can’t afford to take any risks.

“We would sooner make people aware now rather than waiting for the day and everybody turning up expecting it to be on.

“It could change, but as it stands at the moment there is a strong possibility that it may be cancelled.”

Thousands of spectators lined The Esplanade to watch 380 festively-clad revellers take the plunge in last year’s swim.

And the event, which is believed to have only been cancelled once in the last 20 years, has become increasingly popular since it began in 1985.

“In the last five years it has gone from about 50 people swimming to several hundred - it’s something that has become part of the town’s tradition now,” the spokesman added.

Last year’s event saw Sidmouth’s lifeboat crew called in to action to help half-a-dozen swimmers who received minor injuries after being swept on to the rocks.

Updates on the event will appear on the Herald website, but if the swim does take place, entrants are asked to sign in and gather in front of the Sidmouth Sailing and Sea Angling Club from 10.30am.

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