Branson, visionary behind the Virgin brand, and Grenier, an actor best known for Entourage and The Devil Wears Prada, will attempt the crossing as part of the Strive Challenge, organized by Cassie Down of Threshold Sports.
The Virgin Strive Challenge is organized to push the boundaries of human capabilities in various journeys.
Participants in these challenges – on dryland, on bikes and in the water – abide by the Strive philosophy: “Growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone to achieve bold ambitions. Magic happens when you do it with others.”
Nino Fazio, a record holder across the strait, and chief escort pilot Giovanni Arena, as well as numerous other volunteers, have led over 120 people across the Strait, and will assist in the tandem swim.
“Everyone who attempts to cross this strait all have the same goal – which is our goal as well,” he explained. “An actor, a tennis star, a businessman, a politician, a champion, and the unknown swimmer; they are all the same. Swimming is socially interesting: no matter who you are, you have to take off your clothes to do it, and you all swim with your arms, legs and heart.”
Branson and Grenier will attempt to cross the strait from mainland Italy to Sicily which is rare for a single crossing; a vast majority of swimmers swim in the other direction.
Fazio also maintains the historical records in the Strait of Messina:
*Andrea Fazio: 30 minutes 6 seconds – fastest freestyle single crossing (2015)
*Maria Betania Torre: 36 minutes 7 seconds – fastest freestyle female single crossing (2010)
*Alberto Guerrini: 48 minutes 34 seconds – fastest backstroke single crossing (2011)
*Gianni Golini: 51 minutes 49 seconds – fastest butterfly crossing (1977)
*Diego Santoro: 36 minutes 9 seconds – fastest breaststroke crossing (2008)
*Asya Cautela: 40 minutes 11 seconds – fastest female breaststroke crossing (2009)
*Nino Fazio: 1 hour 22 minutes 23 seconds – fastest freestyle male double crossing (2010)
*Elena Lionello: 1 hour 23 minutes 41 seconds – fastest freestyle female double crossing (2009)
*Ettore Mercuri: 1 hour 57 minutes 46 seconds – fastest backstroke male double crossing (1967)
*Gianni Golini: 2 hours 23 minutes 56 seconds – fastest butterfly male double crossing (1976)
*Francesca Manzari: 2 hours 36 minutes 34 seconds – fastest butterfly female double crossing (1993)
*Grazia De Gregorio: 3 hours 29 minutes 2 seconds – fastest breaststroke female double crossing (1974)
*Gianni Golini: 5 hours 13 minutes 55 minutes – fastest individual medley quadruple crossing (1977)
*Giuseppe Nicosia: 5 hours 27 minutes 7 seconds – fastest male crossing the Volcano-Milazzo (1986)
*Cristina Scotto: 9 hours 56 minutes 27 seconds – fastest female crossing the Volcano-Milazzo (2007)
*Nino Fazio: 5 hours 35 minutes 5 seconds – fastest male crossing the Volcano-Capo Calavà (2006)
*Cristina Scotto: 5 hours 37 minutes 2 seconds – fastest female crossing the Volcano-Capo Calavà (2005)
For more information and details of the history of swimming across the Strait of Messina, visit here.
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