Jersey, here I come!

This is going to have to be quick as the battery is nearly gone in my laptop and the charger is broken. I spoke with my pilot, Mick Le Guilcher, yesterday and he said that, at the moment, Wednesday is looking like a good day for my Round Jersey solo swim. So, I fly out tomorrow morning and hopefully will be on my holidays in Cornwall by Friday evening. The Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club have their own tracker which should be on the boat and you can follow it at on the day. There may also be the odd update on the @JLDSC Twitter account.

If the swim does go ahead on Wednesday, it will start around 6:25 am and should take about 10 hours to complete. This is my last blog post before the swim so if you’d like more updates over the next few days keep an eye on my Twitter account @owenswims93 to keep up to date…

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Race Review: GaddinAbtGarnish 2013

With my Round Jersey solo approaching, I’ve been trying to up my training mileage over the last few weeks. Over the last fortnight, this has been made a lot easier by a spell of great weather (by Irish standards). College exams out of the way, I managed 33.4 km for the last week of May, including a great 2-hour swim from Fermoy Rowing Club to Castlehyde House, Michael Flatley’s “Irish residence”, and back. Last week, I managed to increase this to 45.4 km, only 13.3 km of this was in the pool (with Fermoy SC) and the remaining 32.1 km was in the open water (mostly in the River Blackwater but also in Ballycroneen, Knockananig Reservoir and Glengarriff). The highlight of the week had to be the annual GaddinAbtGarnish swim in Glengarriff on Saturday…

Photograph – Ossi Schmidt

The crowd of 120 swimmers ready for the briefing at GaddinAbtGarnish 2013 (Photograph: Ossi Schmidt).

Garnish Island (Irish: Oileán an Chuilinn) is a small island in Glengarriff Harbour, a very sheltered inlet off Bantry Bay, West Cork. There were three options for the swim: 1 km (out and back), 3 km (out, once around and back) or 5 km (out, twice around and back). I did the 5 km swim, as I had done in 2011 and 2012. Conditions were ideal – it was hot and sunny and there was hardly a puff of wind. The water was also very clear. Despite the perfect conditions, I was unsure of how I’d perform as it had been a long week to this point and I remembered very well how I struggled around the course last year. The first 500 m of the swim would tell a lot!

There was hardly any fighting at the start, unlike previous years, and a group of three of us pulled away almost immediately. Alex Rathke of UCD Swimming & Water Polo, formerly of Dolphin SC, took the lead while I drafted off of Oran Kane, Killarney. The pace seemed fine out to the first buoy so I felt happy to leave Alex off and sit in behind Oran for the rest of the swim and try to pass him before the finish. Oran seemed to have major goggles issues (for once it wasn’t me with the goggle disorder) at about 800 m so I decided to head off in front of him. At the first corner of the island (about 1 km in) I noticed that Alex had taken a bad line and gone very wide – think my line was pretty good as I had to dolphin over a reef but didn’t get cut!

Over the next 1 km or so, Alex caught up to me but didn’t pass me at the third corner. At this point, we were heading in a straight line back to the buoy at the 500 m mark, but the sun was in our eyes and it was hard to navigate. Alex knew that I’d done the swim before so stuck with me as he figured I’d have some idea of where to go. Oran was behind getting a nice double draft all the while! I eventually spotted the buoy and rounded it as instructed in the pre-race briefing, as did Alex and Oran. However, on rounding the buoy (and politely asking a kayaker blocking the way to move), I spotted at least two white caps rounding the first corner of the island – this made no sense as all of the 3 km swimmers should be well on the other side of the island and, assuming that everyone followed the correct course, there should be no 5 km swimmers in front of us. It soon became clear that the two were 5 km swimmers, Ned Denison and possibly Warren Roche, who had decided to take a shortcut along the side of the island…

The pace picked up a bit for the second lap – Alex took a lead on me and I pulled away from Oran. Alex still didn’t venture too far away for nearly another 1 km, it seems he still needed some guidance on the course! At the 3.5 km mark, though, he started to pull away and I could see him catch Ned and some of the 3 km swimmers. It was long before I did the same myself, swimming over Ned’s legs a few times just to let him know that I was there and that he’d been caught cheating!

At the third corner, I was still able to see Alex and could also see Warren Roche just ahead of me. Having caught Warren, who also seemed unsure of the correct path, I kept a good eye on Alex’s position and could see him taking a bad line again – he went way off to the left and I managed to reach the buoy before him. With a lot of swimmers in the area, I lost sight of him and so sprinted the last 500 m back to the slipway. To my surprise, I was the first of the 5 km swimmers to finish and did so in 1 hour 8 minutes 24 seconds – definitely a new personal best 5 km time! Not long afterwards, Alex and Warren finished together (not quite at the slipway but close enough). Ned was next in wondering why the rest of us had taken “such a bad line” and he was followed very shortly by Oran.

Photograph – Ossi Schmidt

Me exiting the water at the end of GaddinAbtGarnish 2013 (Photograph: Ossi Schmidt).

It was a great race in amazing scenery. It was a treat to finish a 5 km sea swim warm and be in no rush to get changed. On getting out, I met Dave Mulcahy and Declan O’Keeffe, both Fermoy SC, who had finished their 3 km swim. I also met Mary McEvoy, Gina Lyons, Adam Blaiklock, Niamh Fleming and James Slowey, all from Fermoy, who had finished their swims. Iain and Ciara MacCallum, Fermoy also, both finished their 3 km just after me. Ciara had originally planned to do the 1 km but was feeling good after the Fastnet Triathlon in Schull that morning so decided to do the 3 km! I got a bit worried that there was still no sign of Paul Noonan, also Fermoy SC, who was also doing the 3 km and should have been out well before me. I hung around for a while and he eventually should up, having “accidentally” swum the 5 km instead, his previous longest open water swim being 2 km! Well done to everyone from Fermoy who took part, it was great to see both Fermoy SC and Blackwater Tri Club so well represented.

Other great points about the swim included seeing a few big moon jellies (a very welcome sign that the water is warming up), clean clear water in a beautiful setting, seeing lots of starfish on the seaweed (maybe a good sign for the Crosóige Mara relay in July) and top class kayak and RIB support. Well done again to Ossi and Imelda on organising a great event, I’m looking forward to next year already!

Cork swimmers ready for MIMS 2013

With Lisa Cummins already stateside, it’s only Liam Maher and Carol Cashell left to send off to the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim 2013. Last Saturday, there was a send-off swim at Sandycove Island for the two seasoned marathoners before they leave…

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Some of the swimmers get ready to start the send-off swim…

The weather was great so there was a good crowd present to join Liam and Carol for their last lap of the island before the big swim. Before we arrived however, there were already four swimmers in the water – Donal Buckley, Ciarán Byrne, Finbarr Hedderman and Rob “The Bull” Bohane – finishing their third lap that morning!

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

And they’re off, maybe just fix the goggles first!

After getting out, the four dived back in for another two laps of the island! Why? There has been a recent escalation in competition between a few of the old guard at Sandycove to reach a thousand lifetime laps and so join the informal “M Club” of Sandycove – these five laps were the last  five before the thousand for “The Bull” so he has beaten Ned Denison to it! It’s amazing the motivation that many of us get to beat Ned…

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Liam & Carol at the second corner.

The water was very calm and the air was mild – this is unusual for Sandycove this year! Temperatures in the water had risen also – it was about 11ºC on the day. This allowed us to stop for a chat and a few photographs at the far corner of the island.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Off again for the second half of the lap…

I was happy enough to finish after one lap but a few made it worth their while getting wet and went around a second time. The sea is warming up now so I will be doing multiple laps from now on. This was a social swim, though, so there was no need to push myself.

Photograph – Owen O'Keefe

Carol finished, more ready to head off.

After the swim, there was a great BBQ and spread put on by Liam and Kaye and many others contributed also. There was a great atmosphere afterwards and it was a great way of sending off our swimmers. Best of luck, Liam and Carol!

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Gearing up for Jersey

Well, today is the first day resembling summer! It’s very sunny, very warm (17ºC) if a little windy here in Fermoy and the forecast for the next week is reasonably good. This brings great relief as it seemed for a while like the summer would never come. The water has been very cold but now it has some chance of heating up – good news for those os us planning 2 and 6 hour qualifying swims for the next few weeks!

I leave for Dover on 7 July, the day after the Lee Swim, for our Crosóige Mara 2-way English Channel relay and won’t be home before my Round Jersey solo window opens on 21 July. This leaves me with just the month of June to complete my 6 hour qualifying swim for the Jersey swim – doesn’t sound too daunting, but the weather so far this year hasn’t helped… Things are looking better now though so it’s just a case of getting the metres in the shoulders and the hours in the water. Being a student means that I don’t have any excuses  in terms of not having the time. We’ll get there!

Off to attempt my 2 hour relay qualifier now…

My 2013 Plans

It’s a fairly quiet week and, to be honest, I can’t think of anything to write about. So to fill the gap, and maybe to put some pressure on myself, here’s a quick summary of my main goals for the 2013 season.

Assuming that the race is run under the same tidal conditions as it was last year, I’d love to complete the “Vibes & Scribes” Lee Swim in under 24 minutes. In theory, the swim is 2 km, though there is sometimes a little tidal assistance. I came a reasonably respectable 3rd with a time of 24:07.5 last year – I didn’t do a whole lot of training last year so I should be able to improve on this.

Logo – Maeve Ryan

Crosóige Mara Channel Relay Team 2013

The day after the Lee Swim, I’m heading to Dover with Crosóige Mara for our 2-way English Channel relay attempt in aid of Down Syndrome Ireland. Most of us on the team swim at about 4 km/h in the open water so we are hoping to complete the swim in 24 hours (or under) and, in doing so, break the Irish 2-way relay record of 24 hours 4 minutes. I’m really looking forward to this!

While the rest of the team head home after the relay, I will stay in London to wait for a call to go to Jersey for my solo circumnavigation attempt. The Round Jersey swim is, technically, a 65 km swim. However, the swim is heavily tide assisted and a lot of swimmers tend to get faster times for this swim than they do for their English Channel swims. I’m hoping to complete the swim in under 10 hours – and beat Ned‘s time!

I might have one or two other long swims lined up for August but nothing’s confirmed yet. In September, I plan to do my first overseas race, the 6.5 km Marnaton series swim in Cadaqués, Northern Catalonia. I speak virtually no Spanish and even less Catalan, so thankfully, Mauricio and the gang from have offered to translate all of the race instructions for me!

August could be interesting, so keep an eye on the blog for updates…