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 OWSwimming.com, 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…

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 OWSwimming.com have offered to translate all of the race instructions for me!

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

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 carolcashell@yahoo.com 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!

Alan Clack’s English Channel Swim

The third of the four English Channel swims that I crewed on this summer was that of Alan Clack. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia  but now living in Montréal, Québec, Alan is one of the survivors of Ned Denison‘s Cork Distance Week. He is one of the very few to have survived it twice in as many years! Here is the story of his swim:

Alan, well done again on a fantastic swim on what certainly wasn’t the best day of the year and thanks for having me there!

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!

What to expect in the next few weeks…

So this weekend the clocks went back and Mr. Finbarr Hedderman declared the summer swimming season at Sandycove Island over. Since I have no big swims planned for the winter swimming season I’ll start blogging with reviews of some of my most enjoyable swims this summer, including:

  • My 3-stage descent of the River Blackwater from Fermoy to Youghal.
  • My swim from mainland Donegal to Tory Island.
  • My swims around Cape Clear and Ringarogy in West Cork.

This was also my first summer of crewing on English Channel swims so I’ll be reflecting on the four swims that I crewed on this summer, including FINA World #1 Trent Grimsey‘s record-breaking 6 hour 55 minute swim! You can also expect some nice photographs, I didn’t bother with any non-picturesque swims this year…

Tory Island:

Cape Clear & Ringarogy: