ILDSA Awards and HoF-MSI Inductions

This Sunday, 11th March 2018, will be an important day in the Irish open water swimming calendar, a day to acknowledge the achievements of swimmers and contributors during the 2017 season as well as to honour the lifetime achievements of members of the Irish open water swimming community. We will mark these at the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association‘s (ILDSA) Annual Awards and the inaugural induction ceremony of the Hall of Fame – Marathon Swimming Ireland (HoF-MSI), which will be held at the Waterside House Hotel near Donabate in Fingal (North County Dublin), a fitting location on the edge of the Irish sea and looking out at Lambay Island.

After lunch in the Lambay Suite, the awards and induction ceremonies will get underway. To get things started, there will be a welcome address by the Deputy Mayor of Fingal, Cllr Adrian Henchy (FF), after which I will take over as master of ceremonies for the rest of the afternoon. The fact that I’ve been trusted with this duty surely means that I didn’t do too bad a job when I hosted the awards in 2012!

First will be the presentation of medals to all swimmers born or resident on the island of Ireland who successfully completed English Channel crossings in 2017. Carol Finlay, Participation Officer of Swim Ireland, and Maggie Purcell, President of Swim Ireland, will present the medals for solo and relay swims, respectively. Medals will then be presented to all swimmers who successfully completed North Channel Swims in 2017, with medals for solo swims being presented by Billy Wallace, President of the ILDSA, and medals for relay swims being presented by Cllr Henchy and Eoin Gaffney of Leinster Open Sea.

Following the presentation of the English Channel and North Channel medals, we will move on to the presentation of the ILDSA Awards for the 2017 season, which will be presented by Maggie Purcell, President of Swim Ireland. The following is a list of the awards that will be presented:

Between the various medal and award presentations, four speakers will offer us unique insights into different challenges in our sport. Wes Nolan, Ion Lazarenco and Ned Denison will offer us a swimmer’s perspective, while veteran North Channel pilot Brian Meharg MBE will give us a pilot’s slant on things.

The final part of the proceedings will be a very special event: the inaugural induction ceremony of the HoF-MSI. The Class of 2018 will be inducted by Billy Wallace and Ned Denison, who are both Honorees of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (Classes of 1999 and 2012, respectively). The Honour Swimmers and Contributors that will be inducted are:

Just in case that wasn’t enough silverware for everybody, there will be one final presentation. The afternoon’s ceremonies will close with the presentation of a “Special Award”, about which I know precisely naught, so I am sure that we will all be eager to find out whom its recipient will be and wherefore…


  1. Places for the lunch and awards can be booked here.
  2. For those traveling by public transport, there will be a shuttle bus service from Dublin City Centre to the venue and back again.

We did it!

Photograph – Lisa Cummins

The team in Dover the day before the swim. Left to right: Lynne Lynch, Caitlin Desmond, Eoin O’Riordan, Owen O’Keefe, Maeve Ryan, Carol Cashell. (Photograph: Lisa Cummins)

As most of my readers will already know, the team of Carol Cashell, Caitlin Desmond, Maeve Ryan, Lynne Lynch, Eoin O’Riordan and myself (collectively known as Crosóige Mara) successfully completed a 2-way relay crossing of the English Channel last Saturday. Our primary aim was to complete both legs but we also had a secondary target of breaking the Irish record for a 2-way relay. The existing record was 21 hours 12 minutes and was held by the Dublin Fire Brigade team, which included Tom Healy, the current Irish record-holder for a solo swim with a time of 9 hours 51 minutes. This was always going to be a tough time to beat, especially given that that team completed their first leg in just 9 hours 55 minutes! We were confident, however, that with the right training and a good day we could break this record…

After a reasonable enough waiting time of 5 days in Dover, our pilot Mike Oram told us that Saturday, 13 July would be the best day to attempt the swim. We were to meet him at Dover Marina at midnight with the aim of starting some time between 1:00 am and 1:30 am. At the marina we met Mike and his crew as well as our two CS&PF-appinted observers, Mike Ball and Jim Boucher. Once all of the gear was onboard and Mike and Carol had their “discussion” on the team’s speed and targets, we set off for the start point at Abbot’s Cliff on the western end of Samphire Hoe, the same spot where I started my solo.

Photograph – Lisa Cummins

Onboard Mike Oram’s “Gallivant” on the way to the start. All of the team a little apprehensive but excited about getting to swim… (Photograph: Lisa Cummins)

As per the carefully considered plan, Carol was the first swimmer in the rotation and so she had to go ashore at the start point to officially start the swim. Mike shone the torch onto the beach, at which point a fox scampered back to the cliffs, Carol jumped in and swam to the illuminated patch of shoreline, where she cleared the water and signaled that she was ready. At 1:14 am, the siren sounded and Carol began swimming her hour. Carol swam about 3.9 km in her first hour, just above our target speed of 3.6-3.8 km/h.

I started to get ready after about 35 minutes, this was too early, and had a bottle of High5 Zero electrolyte drink and a High5 gel. The gel was a bad idea as it tasted rotten and upset my stomach during my swim. A slight goggle malfunction was irritating me also but none-the-less I got through the hour, my only night swim of the crossing. Caitlin swam the third hour, by the end of which it was starting to get a bit brighter, and Lynne swam the fourth hour. By the end of the fourth hour, about 4:14 am, it was officially day-time. Maeve and Eoin were delighted that they didn’t have to swim in the dark!

Photograph – Lisa Cummins

Caitlin swims past Lance Oram’s “Sea Satin” with Arch-to-Arc athlete, Rachel Hessom, during the ninth hour of the swim. (Photograph: Lisa Cummins)

During Maeve’s first hour (4:14 am to 5:14 am), she caught up with and passed Neil Streeter’s “Suva”, which was escorting Australian swimmer, Libby O’Farrell. The two boats passed very close! About 5 hours later, Caitlin was back in the water for her second hour and passed Lance Oram’s “Sea Satin”, the boat from which I did my solo, which was escorting Rachel Hessom. Rachel was swimming the Channel as part of her Arch-to-Arc challenge, in which athletes run from Marble Arch in London to Dover, swim across the Channel (usually in a wetsuit but Rachel was going without) and cycle from their landing spot to l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Both Libby and Rachel were successful in their swims that day.

Photograph – Lisa Cummins

Maeve has the honour of landing in France! (Photograph: Lisa Cummins)

Mike needed some power from us as we passed Cap-Gris-Nex heading south. We needed to into land as quickly as possible to avoid going further south, where the land would drop away from us and the swim would effectively become longer. Maeve got into the water at 10:14 am and powered into France, finding the only easy exit point for hundreds of metres either side! There was great excitement on the boat as the elapsed time since the start of the swim was 10 hours 18 minutes 59 seconds, just one second faster than my solo time. However, this time was well outside the Dublin Fire Brigade’s split of 9 hour 55 minutes. I was thinking at this stage that the record was not within our reach. As the swim went on, though, it became clear that we would negative split, i.e. we would swim the second leg faster than the first, so breaking the record was a real possibility…

Photograph – Lisa Cummins

I leap over Carol to start my final hour. (Photograph: Lisa Cummins)

The return leg was pretty uneventful for the most part. Conditions remained near-perfect and we were able to get some sleep as well as stuff our faces with ginger nut biscuits between our swims. During the eighteenth hour, the pilot asked for some serious power for the rest of the swim. If the likely last three swimmers (Carol, myself and Caitlin) swam fast enough we would both break the record and land at Shakespeare Beach, an ideal landing spot. Once Eoin had swum the eighteenth hour, Carol jumped in and sprinted off – she was hitting up to 80 strokes per minute during her hour! This was bringing us closer and closer to England and the White Cliffs of Dover were becoming more visible. We needed to keep up this pace so the pressure was on for me to give a “power hour” as Mike calls it.

I leaped over Carol at 19 hours and bolted off, kicking hard. The SiS caffeine gel that I took before the swim was working – I was able to hold the sprint – and the carbohydrate drink was helping to sustain my speed. I kept as close to the boat as possible, where I would gain some assistance from the boat’s drag – a trick I learned from watching Trent Grimsey during his world record-breaking swim last year. Still, I was really hurting from about half an hour in. I was managing to hold about 80 strokes per minute also but every one was beginning to hurt. I got comfort from seeing Lisa hold up an orange jacket every 10 minutes during the hour, though. Some noise from everyone else on the boat was greatly appreciated also! As the sun went down I was waiting to see one of the crew put the ladder in position and Caitlin get ready to takeover, but it seemed to take longer than on my first three swims. Eventually, Caitlin did appear at the gate in her togs but, as far as I was concerned, took forever to jump in. When she did, I was incredibly relieved. Catching the ladder was a struggle but I caught it eventually, my hip cramping as I did so. We were so close at this stage, it was time to give Caitlin plenty of vocal and visual encouragement to get into the beach.

Photograph – Jim Boucher

The sun goes down and the White Cliffs of Dover becomes more clearly visible during my last hour of swimming… (Photograph: Jim Boucher)

Caitlin did a great job of bringing us into Shakespeare Beach, where we swam the other day. When the boat couldn’t go any closer, Carol jumped in with her waterproof camera to take a few shots at the finish. Caitlin cleared the water 10 hours 10 minutes and 1 second after we left France, giving us a total time of 20 hours 29 minutes for the 2-way. Needless to say, there was great jubilation on the boat and plenty of patting each other on the back for a job well done. On the beach, Caitlin was greeted by her dad, Derry, as well as Maeve’s fiancé, Martin, and Lynne’s husband, Richie. The three lads deserve great thanks for putting up with us for the whole week and Derry deserves a special thanks for his great cooking, approved of by athletes!

Photograph – Jim Boucher

Caitlin sprints in to the finish at Shakespeare Beach. (Photograph: Jim Boucher)

Finishing before 10:45 pm meant that we could be off the boat and in the White Horse pub in Dover in time for last orders. It is a tradition after successful Channel swims that the swimmers write there names on the walls/ceiling of the pub for posterity…

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Our inscription on the ceiling of the White Horse pub in Dover. We were just back in time for last orders! (Photograph: Owen O’Keefe)

Writing upside-down on a ceiling after a 2-way Channel relay is not so easy so Carol and I ended up sharing the writing! The spot that we were allocated was next to that of Nick Caine, a swimmer my own age from California who swam at the Cork Distance Week in 2009 and swam the Channel that year also. Next to our spot, I also wrote in Pádraig Mallon’s swim. Pádraig is from Newry in Northern Ireland and swam the Channel on 6 July in a time of 14 hours 47 minutes.

Chart – Mike Oram

Our chart as produced by Gallivant’s technology.

We have loads more photographs from the swim than the ones in this post. Keep an eye on our Facebook page to see all of the photographs from the swim and our few days in Dover. Don’t forget also that we’re trying to raise €10,000 for Down Syndrome Ireland through the swim – you can support this cause by going to our iDonate page and clicking on “Sponsor Me”. All donations are greatly appreciated.

Thanks to everyone for their support on Twitter and Facebook during the swim!

The Wait is Over!

Good news! The pilot for our 2-way English Channel relay, Mike Oram, called this morning to confirm that we will be meeting him in Dover Marina at midnight tonight with a view to starting our swim for about 1:00 am tomorrow. We’re all packed now and ready to go!

Photograph – Lisa Cummins

The Team! (left-to-right: Caitlin Desmond, Maeve Ryan, Eoin O’Riordan, Owen O’Keefe, Lynne Donnelly, Carol Cashell)

You can follow our progress on Twitter @CrosoigeMara and on our Facebook page. You can also track the boat on or on the CS&PF website. Don’t forget that we are doing the swim in aid of Down Syndrome Ireland and you can donate via our iDonate page. I’ll update when we’re done…

Preparations Almost Finished

It’s hard to believe that it’s July already – the summer is flying by! This Saturday, the best event of the year, the “Vibes & Scribes” Lee Swim, takes place in Cork City. I and all of my Crosóige Mara teammates will be there for our last swim at home before leaving for Dover the following day! Everyone on the team has put in a lot of training, including our 2-hour qualifying swims, a night swim and relay changeover practices, so we are ready for whatever the English Channel has to throw at us…

Logo – Maeve Ryan

Crosóige Mara Channel Relay Team 2013

We are doing the swim in aid Down Syndrome Ireland, a very worthy cause, and if you’d like to sponsor us just go to our iDonate page and click “Sponsor Me”. Any support is greatly appreciated by all of the team!

Preparations for Jersey are coming along also. Last Thursday, I had a very nice 7.5 km swim on my own from Fermoy Rowing Club to the rapids above Castlehyde and back. The water seemed quite warm so I decided to try a 6-hour (Round Jersey solo qualifying swim) on Saturday. After a tough pool session with Chris Mintern and a river swim with James O’Mahony on the Friday, I wasn’t 100% sure how the 6-hour would go but I knew that it was possibly my last chance to get it done before heading to Dover…

I started the swim at 7:00 am on the Saturday morning. It was very dull and a bit cool, but the water was still about 15ºC so that was good news! I was swimming upriver to various points on the bank and then back down for my feeds. I got a but cold during the second hour but this soon passed – no harm to get that phase out of the way early in the swim! After about 2 hours, Dave Mulcahy joined me and swam to Glenabo Stream and back, taking about 1 hour 30 minutes. After just over 4 hours I switched from 30 minute intervals to 20 minute intervals as planned. This made the last 2 hours seem a bit quicker.

I finished after 6 hours 3 minutes of swimming, a bit sorer than when I did the 5 hours in the sea in Myrtleville as long swims can be harder in fresh water, with just over 20.5 km swum. Thankfully, Niamh Fleming of Blackwater Tri Club was there to drop me home as my tracksuit pants (with keys and some small change), warm jumper, shoes and even underwear had been stolen from my gear bag during the swim…

The fact that my belongings were stolen caused me great upset. Somebody had obviously meticulously searched through the bag for their target items, i.e. clothes and cash, and left what was on little use to them. For the last 48 hours my major concern has been my missing keys, which included keys to the front door of my own house and my grandfather’s house, as well as keys to the side gates of my house, my bike lock and, most importantly of all, my father’s car. Luckily, I just this minute found that the thief had taken the keys out of the pocket of my tracksuit pants and hidden them in an unused side-pocket of my gear bag. To be honest, I don’t care about the clothes or the small change that I’m not going to get back, I’m just relieved to have my keys and some sense of security back.

On the other hand, this could have been a very serious safety issue. It was a Saturday so there were no construction workers in the area and the Rowing Club were all away at a regatta, and had the weather been bad, there wouldn’t have been anyone around when I finished the swim. I was in the water for just over 6 hours and could have been very cold when I exited. I could have been hypothermic upon exiting without any means of getting assistance. If it came to it, I’d have had to walk into town in my togs – not an ideal situation, as you can imagine. So, I would appeal to anyone engaged in theft to think not just about the monetary/sentimental value of what you’re stealing or the upset that you are causing to the person that you’re stealing from, but about the very real danger in which you’re putting their life if you’re they happen to be swimming at the time.

“An Saol ó Dheas” i gCOC

Grianghraf – Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha

Veain RnaG lasmuigh d’Áras Uí Rathaille i gColáiste ha h-Ollscoile, Corcaigh.

Tá an-chuid imeachtaí ar siúl i gColáiste na h-Ollscoile, Corcaigh chun ceiliúradh  a dhéanamh ar Sheachtain na Gaeilge. Mar chuid de na h-imeachtaí, do tháinig craoltóirí an chláir “An Saol ó Dheas” aniar ó Raidió na Gaeltachta Bhaile na nGall chugainn indé. Do craoladh an clár, le Helen Ní Shé á chur i láthair, beo ón tSeomra Chaidreamh in Áras Uí Rathaille i gceart-lár na h-Ollscoile.

Ar an gclár ‘bhí ceoltóirí den chéad scoth chomh maith le h-aíonna éagsúla ó Ionad na Gaeilge Labhartha agus ó ranna eile ins an Ollscoil. Do bhíos féin ar an gclár ag caint mar gheall ar mo chuid snámha féinig agus mar gheall ar an snámh atá pleanáilte ag an bhfoireann Crosóige Mara i Mí Iúil na bliana so. Tá an pod-chraoladh nasctha thíos:

Tosnaím-se ag caint timpeall leith-shlí istigh sa chlár ach b’fhiú duit cloisint leis an rud ar fad toisc go bhfuil an caighdeán cheoil sin agus cainteoirí chomh suimiúil sin ann…

CS&PF Dinner 2013

After crewing for four English Channel attempts this year, three of them Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation swims, I decided that I’d go to the annual CS&PF Dinner. The dinner took place in Dover Town Hall on Saturday, 2 March 2013.

I travelled over with Lisa Cummins, who completed her historic 2-way crossing in the two days before my own swim. Before arriving in Dover, we called in to visit David & Evelyn Frantzeskou at Varne Ridge Holiday Park. David & Evelyn’s hospitality is famous among Channel swimmers, particularly those from Ireland. They have a grassy area right on the cliff, from which you can see the French coast. In November, a new bench was placed here in memory of Páraic Casey. It’s an ideal place to sit and reflect on the challenge of swimming the Channel. Part of the Varne Ridge experience is the raising of your country’s flag when you get back from your successful swim and having your name added to the Wall with the names all other successful swimmers who have stayed there…

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

A section of the wall at Varne Ridge Holiday Park, a favourite spot for Channel swimmers…

Examining the new plaques on the Wall is always great to waste some time. In the photo above, you can see a selection of the 2009 swimmers, including Andrea Gellan (SCO) who trained at the Cork Distance Week, Lisa Cummins (IRE), Liane Llewellyn-Hickling (GBR), Owen O’Keefe (IRE), Julie Galloway-Farrell (TEX-IRE) and Dairmuid Boyle (IRE). We are all very luck to be on the patch of wall as Trent Grimsey (AUS) who broke the World Record with his 6 hour 55 minute swim on 8 September 2012.

Before heading to the Dinner, we met up with other Channel swimming junkies over from Ireland: Donal Buckley and his partner Dee, Ned Denison and Fionnuala Walsh. There was also a mandatory trip to the White Horse pub where successful swimmers get to sign their names on the wall, if they can find a space, that is!

On arrival in what is surely one of Dover’s finest buildings, the Town Hall, we met very many familiar faces from the last few years and put some faces to names (as I explained in my guest post on, the open water swimming community is close-knit with most of us knowing each other online but not having a clue what we look like)! As well as meeting a lot of past Channel swimmers, we were also introduced to all of this season’s CS&PF swimmers through this video:

Ireland did very well in the awards this year: Tom Healy (Dublin) was award the Des Renford Award for the “most meritorious swim of the year by a man” and Fionnuala Walsh (Clare) was awarded the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club Award for the “most successful swim against all odds”. Trent Grimsey was, naturally enough, awarded the “Eurotunnel” Trophy for the “fastest CS&PF swim of the year”.

It was a fantastic occasion. Well done to Michelle and Emma who organised the whole evening, they did a great job! I’m looking forward to next year…

Overnight Swim for Down Syndrome Ireland

In July of 2013, six swimmers (Caitlin Desmond, Owen O’Keefe, Maeve Ryan, Lynne Lynch, Carol Cashell and Eoin O’Riordan), collectively called Crosóige Mara, will attempt an English Channel 2-way relay crossing in aid of Down Syndrome Ireland. We are very ambitious and are hoping to make lots of money for this great charity and break the Irish record for this swim by completing the 2-way crossing in under 24 hours…

Logo – Maeve Ryan

Crosóige Mara, Channel Relay Team 2013

In order to raise more money for the swim, Dolphin Masters SC are hosting an overnight pool swim. If you would like to take part, here are the details:

  • When: 21:00 on Saturday, 29th December to 05:00 on Sunday, 30th December.
  • Where: Mayfield Sports Complex, Cork (Northside).
  • Price: €20 for any 2 hours or €50 for the entire 8 hours.
  • Options: Swimming will be in repeat 100 m swims. You can swim for 8 hours, swim for 1 hour and rest for 30 minutes or do what you can when you can…
  • Lanes: Five lanes will be in use. There will be one lane repeating on 1:40, another on 1:50, another on 2:00, another on 2:10 and another lane for leisure…

Please note that you must be at least 16 years old in order to take part. Also, tea/coffee and snacks will be available but you will need to bring your own energy drinks if you want them. If you would like to take part, or have any questions, please send an e-mail to Carol Cashell on in good time…

Logo – DSI

Down Syndrome Ireland – providing information, advice and a voice for people with Down syndrome and their parents/guardians across Ireland.

You can follow Crosóige Mara on Twitter @CrosoigeMara and you can donate online through our iDonate page. Thanks to everyone for their support so far!