Darien’s Noroton Yacht Club holds first charity polar plunge: ‘basically fall in the water and rush out’

DARIEN — In a chilly first, the Noroton Yacht Club hosted a “polar plunge” to kick off the New Year.

Around 60 people were in attendance at the Darien harbor on Jan. 1, said general manager William Jessup. Half of them decided to actually jump into the water, which measured around 46 degrees at the time of the plunge.

“We did a countdown to rush in, basically fall in the water and rush back out,” said attendee Diane Schlinkert, a member of the club. “It was a new idea and a great challenge.”

The ages of those jumping in spanned generations, from Schlinkert’s 5-year-old grandson — the youngest attendee there — to an older resident in his 80s, Jessup said.

Jessup said a crew from Darien’s Post 53 was also on standby in case anyone experienced adverse reactions to the cold. Thankfully, he said, there were no attendees who needed medical attention.

Originally planned for last year but delayed because of rising COVID-19 rates, Jessup said he envisioned the event as a way to “beat the COVID blues” and welcome the new year.

The event, open to club members and their guests, will likely be expanded next year, Jessup said.

“This was the first time we've ever done it, and it was so much fun that it will be an annual event,” Jessup said.

Registration was $20 and the event raised around $400 for Person to Person, a local nonprofit organization that provides food assistance and other charitable services.

Though it was a relatively warm winter day, most attendees who jumped in quickly came back out. They were able to warm up with a beach bonfire and a brunch following their plunge.

But Schlinkert, a competitive swimmer who regularly traverses Long Island Sound in warmer months, said she could up the ante even further.

“The bragging rights is the water temperature, right?” Schlinkert said. “I hope in the future it will be at least snowing at the same time.”