Ultra-distance swimmer Neil Agius has announced a change to his plans to swim from Tunisia to Sicily on Saturday, changing to route to start from Linosa, a small island north of Lampedusa and finishing in Malta. 

Agius announced he will be taking a plunge from the Sicialian Island on Monday evening and is expected to arrive in Malta on Wednesday in what should be a 50 to 55 hour non-stop journey. 

Neil and the Wave of Change team are attempting to set the world record for the longest continuous, unassisted, current-neutral swim along a single-segment natural route in an ocean, sea, or bay, which is currently set at 124.4km. 

The original route would have seen Agius set off from from a small village in Tunisia, Eastern Hawaria and arriving in the Sicilian seaside village of Kartibubbo, a distance of roughly 153 km. 

The distance between Malta’s west coast and Linosa’s east coast is in the realm of 130km. 

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Agius said that he made the difficult decision to amend the route but was “super excited to be finishing in Malta”. 

“After carefully considering the options, I made the tough but necessary decision to change the course of the swim. The route is now that of Linosa to Malta. I will be swimming home,” he said. 

“The decision was not taken lightly. We are practicing the mindset I always talk about - listening to the forces of nature, taking note of the signs and improvising to reach the ultimate goal.”

“This doesn't make the swim any easier or less of a challenge. All the exact same restrictions apply. It is still set to be a 50-55 hour non stop swim.”

“As you can imagine, this takes mental agility from myself and the team to switch course at such short notice. But this is all part of the training and the mindset I am committed to.”

On Thursday Agius had warned that bad weather in Tunisia would not allow the ideal conditions for the swim to take place, and while it was a “tough pill to swallow”, the navigation team had been looking into alternate routes for the swim to take place regardless. 

“I have been working round the clock for the last 6 months to make this dream a reality, but this is part of the challenges with taking on an expedition like this and it is why we need a strong mindset to keep going,” he said. 

Neil being given a hero's welcome from his dog Goose after his epic Sicily-Malta swim. Photo: Matthew MirabelliNeil being given a hero's welcome from his dog Goose after his epic Sicily-Malta swim. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The 34-year-old Olympian turned activist is no stranger to super-human tests of endurance in the Mediterranean. 

Last summer Neil made history by being the second person ever to swim from Sicily to Malta in a record-breaking 28 hours, seven minutes and 27 seconds.

In December, he also braved the cold waters and swam across the Gozo-Malta channel in two hours, while towing a friend who sat on a paddleboard dressed as Father Christmas. 

In 2018, he swam 70km around Malta in 22 hours, and the following year, he picked up the pace and completed the shorter 38km swim around Gozo in just 10 hours.

Neil’s aquatic achievements are all in support of Wave of Change, a movement he co-founded that raises awareness about plastic pollution and marine litter. 

The Double the Wave challenge is on a mission to pick up one million pieces of plastic. 

“We want people not only to be aware of their plastic rubbish, but also to encourage physical activity in people’s lives. You do not have to do a 153km swim like me: start small and see where it takes you. Be active, be more aware of what you consume and make a change,” Neil told Times of Malta when launching the campaign. 

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