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…

Notes:

  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.
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A Tour of Lough Hyne

This another sort of lazy post made up almost entirely of photographs. They’re worth looking at though as they are of a place where I’ve had some of my best and most memorable swims: Lough Hyne, West Cork.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

The hill of Dromadoon from Barloge Quay.

Lough Hyne is a marine lake between the town of Skibbereen and the village of Baltimore in West Cork. It’s connected to the sea by a very narrow set of rapids, known simply as the Rapids. The small size of the Rapids means that the lake has an asymmetrical tidal cycle: the tide flows in for about 4 hours 30 minutes and out for about 8 hours 30 minutes. The tidal range in the lake, at about 1 m, is also much narrower than the tidal range outside, which can be 4 m or more.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Calm waters in Barloge Creek…

The freshwater input into Lough Hyne is negligible and so it is completely marine, but the geography of the lake means that it is full of relatively warm, well-aerated saline water. This makes it ideal for many kinds of marine life, including many species found nowhere on Earth except in Lough Hyne. The lake and the area just outside it, Barloge Creek, was designated Europe’s first Marine Nature Reserve in 1981 and is now home to a research centre which is part of the school of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences (BEES) at University College Cork, where I am studying.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

There is easy access to the crystal clear water at Barloge Quay…

On Friday, 13 April 2012, Steven Black and I decided to take advantage of fine weather and go for an early season swim in the area. Steve is originally from Cape Town, South Africa but is now a resident of the island of Ringarogy near Baltimore, West Cork. He is a regular swimmer at Lough Hyne…

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

The view across Barloge Creek from the road.

On this day, we decided to try a 3.7 km swim starting at Barloge Creek, heading over the Rapids into Lough Hyne, swimming west of Castle Island to West Quay, across to North Quay and straight back to Barloge Creek, going east of Castle Island. This might be a bit if a stretch as the water was only 10ºC or 11ºC and neither of us would be in wetsuits.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

The view towards Tranabo Cove from Barloge.

It was a fine day so I brought my new waterproof camera to see of I could get any nice shots. I was hoping to get a few underwater wildlife shots as the water is crystal clear but it wasn’t to be on this particular day.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Steve Black of Cape Town, South Africa via Ringarogy dons his ACNEG in anticipation of a slightly cooler swim than his Strait of Gibraltar crossing!

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Swimming towards the Rapids which connect Lough Hyne to the sea via Barloge Creek…

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Swimming away from Barloge Quay towards the Rapids.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Steve swims off ahead of my while I mess around taking photographs…

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Just about to go over the Rapids, the quay on the left and the Bohane Laboratory on the right.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Almost in the Rapids, looking like a good flow!

Swimming over the Rapids is great fun but you must time it right. You need to be able to work out before you go, which way they will be flowing, how fast they will be flowing and what the depth will be. It’s well worth the 2 hour drive from Fermoy to Lough Hyne just to go playing on the Rapids!

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Just exiting the Rapids at Renouf’s Bay…

If you are coming into the lake with the Rapids, as we were, you need to get to the left as quickly as possible at the end as straight ahead is a large whirlpool which you can easily get caught up in if you’re not careful…

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

My Island in the Sun! Swimming towards Castle Island, lit up by the sunlight, in Lough Hyne.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

One of the rocky reefs at the southwestern corner of Castle Island in Lough Hyne.

Lough Hyne is very deep, over 53 m in one place and there is also a 100 m-deep cave in the lake somewhere. Around Castle Island in the centre of the lake, however, there are shallow patches and some rocky reefs. Here you can see lots of soft corals, cockles, oysters, scallops, sponges, spiny starfish, beautifully-coloured anemones, sea urchins, the odd seal and much, much more.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Steve powers on towards West Quay, leaving a nice bubble trail.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

A patch of sunlight illuminates some of the woodland on the western shore of Lough Hyne.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Steve from underwater again.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

The lesser-used West Quay, Lough Hyne.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

A typical scene on sheltered rocky shores on the South Coast of Ireland.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

A closer photograph showing the variety of plants, animals and algae on this small islet on the northern shore of Lough Hyne.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

The little islet again with Knockomagh Hill in the background.

photograph – Owen O'Keefe

West Quay, Lough Hyne as seen from the more frequently used North Quay.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

The eastern shore of Lough Hyne.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Some of the houses around Lough Hyne. The main house, Lough Hyne House, is hidden behind the trees.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Looking back towards the northern shore of Lough Hyne.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Straight ahead is the way back out to the sea, though it mightn’t look like it.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Steve gets ready to dive back into Southern’s Bay having had to walk past the Rapids on the quayside.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Back into Barloge Creek and almost finished the swim!

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Steve finishing the swim back at Barloge Quay.

1 hour 20 minutes later, we arrived back at Barloge Quay perished with the cold but in good condition and well able to drive home afterwards. It was 4 hours of driving for that relatively short swim but well worth the journey. Lough Hyne, Barloge Creek and all of the surrounding area is beautiful, quiet and great swimming territory. Hopefully there will be more stories to come from here…

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Dromadoon as seen in a very different light to just 2 hours earlier…

Stephen Redmond is WOWSA Man of the Year 2012

Photograph – Unknown

Steve after completing his final swim of the Oceans Seven, the Tsugaru Strait in Japan.

West Cork’s own Stephen Redmond has been voted WOWSA Man of the Year 2012 in a global online poll, it was announced yesterday.

The first (and only) person to have conquered the epic Oceans Seven challenge, Steve topped the field of fifteen nominees, which included such distinguished athletes as Trent Grimsey of Australia, Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia, Thomas Lurz of Germany and Craig Dietz of the USA!  He succeeds Randy Nutt of the USA, Petar Stoychev of Bulagria, Marcos Diaz of the Dominican Republic and Jamie Patrick of the USA.

Ireland has a history of punching above our weight in these awards. This year, Ned Denison‘s Cork Distance Week and Donal Buckley & Evan Morrison’s online forum, MarathonSwimmers.org, were also nominated. While in previous years, other swimmers, including Lisa Cummins, Julie Galloway and Anne Marie Ward have been nominated for and won WOWSA awards.

All-Ireland Long Distance Swimming Party

Last Saturday night, the Grand Hotel on the banks of the Blackwater played host to the first All-Ireland Long Distance Swimming Party. Swimmers and administrators from both Sandycove Island SC and the ILDSA as well as “independents” assembled for what was a very successful evening…

As the crowd of over 100 guests gathered, the dining room was already adorned with fascinating swim charts from all over the world, including the English Channel, North Channel, Strait of Gibraltar, Körös River (Hungary), Cook Strait, Catalina Channel and Lake Zurich, and photographs from some of the highlights of the last 50 years of Irish long distance swimming. While guests were seated and waiting for their food, North Channel pilot Brian Meharg MBE gave a very interesting and humorous presentation on the life of an historic figure in marathon swimming, Mercedes Gleitze.

After dinner, Ned Denison began his annual 10+ km announcements by calling us to remember Páraic Casey and Owen Hughes and let them know that we missed them. He went on to welcome distinguished guests including radio presenter Marcus Connaughton of RTÉ Radio 1’s maritime programme “Seascapes”, long distance swimming pioneer Kieran Fitzgerald and renowned swimming administrator Martin Cullen, among others. Ned then introduced all three of Ireland’s Triple Crown swimmers (Eddie Irwin, Gábor Molnár and himself) and all of those who had done 10+ km swims this year – there were too many for me to mention here!

Before finishing, Ned presented the ILDSA with their certificate from IMSHOF, where they were indicted in absentia this year. Billy Wallace, President of the ILDSA, accepted the certificate from Ned and gave a very fine speech in which he paid tribute to all of the swimmers and everyone else involved in the sport who had helped make 2012 the spectacular year that it was for Irish open water swimming.

Ice swimmer Nuala Moore of Dingle, Co. Kerry then took aver and introduced all of the winners and runners up of the ILDSA Awards 2012. They were as follows:

  • Special Achievement: Stephen Redmond (Cork) for his historic success in becoming the first person to complete the Oceans Seven challenge.
  • Female Swimmer of the Year: Fionnuala Walsh (Clare) for her courage in determination returning to Dover to complete her English Channel solo swim, her original attempt having been abandoned just 200 m from France in thick fog.
  • Male Swimmer of the Year: Tom Healy (Dublin) for his outstanding performance in completing his English Channel solo swim in a time of 9 hours 51 minutes, breaking the previous Irish record of 10 hours 19 minutes.
  • Juvenile Swimmer of the Year: Ellen Brooks (Cork) for her consistent performances in the Martin Duggan Memorial Swim, the “Edge Sports” Sandycove Island Challenge and the Sherkin Island to Baltimore Swim.
  • Juvenile Performance of the Year: Conor Turner (Dublin) for his amazing swim of 59 minutes 15 seconds in the 5 km Camlough race.
  • Leinster Swimmer of the Year: Paul Manning (Dublin)
  • Margaret Smith Award: Owen O’Keefe (Cork)
  • Best Event: 10 km Camlough (Armagh) & 10 km Lough Gill (Sligo)
  • Best Senior Newcomer: Ger Kennedy (Wicklow)
  • Best Junior Newcomer: Jon Glover (Down)
  • Spirit of Swimming Award: Myles McCourt (Down)

Adrian McGreevy of Amphibia kindly donated donated two of his famous sports bags for the ILDSA to present to anyone they wished. The first went to Ned Denison in recognition of his outstanding contribution to open water swimming. Ned’s has an infectious enthusiasm for our sport and, without him, we would not be where we are today. Thanks you, Ned! The second went to Chris Bryan of Ennis, Co. Clare who has represented Ireland all over the world on the professional open water circuit. He came 8th in the World Championships in Shanghai, just 11 seconds behind the winner, Olympic silver medalist Thomas Lurz of Germany, and he missed out on a place at London 2012 by just 0.01 seconds and a dubious political decision on the part of FINA. We are sure to see more amazing performances from Chris and wish him the very best of luck in qualifying for Rio 2016, we know he will do us proud!

Finally, the very impressive personalised ILDSA English Channel medals were presented to all of those present who had completed English Channel solo and relay swims this year.

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On a personal note, I would like to thanks Ned Denison, Stephen Millar and Nuala Moore who helped me enormously in making the night a success. Everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves immensely and we are all looking forward to this becoming an annual event, rotating around the island of Ireland…

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The who’s who of Irish open water swimming to gather in Fermoy tomorrow night…

For the last number of years, Ned Denison has hosted an annual party at his home to honour Irish swimmers who had completed big swims such as the English Channel, North Channel and Strait of Gibraltar (and many others). Both swimmers and crews were invited and the night was always a great success. Separately, the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA) has held its annual awards at which swimmers and race organisers from both the Republic and Northern Ireland were honoured for their achievements. By the way, both Ned and the ILDSA were this year inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida!

This year, for the first time, these two functions will be held jointly. It’s a great honour for me that the my home town of Fermoy was chosen as the venue! The mass celebration of an amazing year in Irish open water swimming will kick off at 18:30 in the Grand Hotel on the banks of the Blackwater River with a presentation on the history of North Channel swimming by seasoned North Channel pilot and chronicler Brian Meharg of Bangor Boat, Bangor, Co. Down. There will then be a meal and the awards will follow…

It promises to be a great night and hopefully I will have a few photographs and a quick run down of the various awards on the blog at some stage next week!