A new challenge for 2017

I know, I know, I managed to let another whole year [and a bit] slip past without so much as a peep on the blog. As many are already aware, I spent the last three years focusing on finishing my BSc in ecology and settling into working life – as an actual ecologist, would you believe – and, just maybe, being a bit lazy… However, 2017 has arrived and that affliction that all who are swimmers have, that visceral desire to be in the water is too much to bear: I need to swim!

After last year’s trip to Brazil in September and seeing her seemingly infinite and stunningly beautiful coastline with its long, sandy beaches, huge, rounded limestone boulders, verdant slopes of Atlantic forest and the deep blue South Atlantic, I knew that it would be hard to resist at least a few marathon swims along that coast. So, a few weeks ago, I found a pool near where I work in Dublin and started training, still not entirely sure for what…

Pousada Casa da Praia

Waking up to this view of Praia dos Anjos in Arraial do Cabo, where Amerigo Vespucci landed in 1503, it’s hard not to imagine swimming here… (Image: Owen O’Keefe)

Aware of the potential difficulties in arranging a completely new swim, I decided that it was best to book an established swim, one for which “all” I would have to do would be to fill in the forms, pay the fees and train. One swim in particular jumped straight out at me: Leme to Pontal, a coastal swim of 35 km. This swim is the same distance as the English Channel, starting at Praia do Leme in Leme, Copacabana and passing all of the oceanic beaches and sites of the city of Rio de Janeiro before finishing at Praia do Pontal in Recreio dos Bandeirantes, Barra da Tijuca (see the interactive map below).

I’ve already secured my window with the Leme to Pontal Swimming Association for the week of the 16th to 22nd December 2017. All I have to do now is to keep up the training and start re-acclimatising to the sea! I will try to keep the blog reasonably up to date with my progress and any other news, so keep an eye out here for intermittent updates and on Facebook, Instagram or maybe even Twitter for more frequent ones…

2 DSC_0040 Owen swim

Back in the Blackwater under Grandad‘s watchful eye last weekend…

More to come soon!

Advertisements

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…

Ned completes False Bay crossing…

Yesterday, Ned Denison became only the fifth person ever to complete the 35 km swim across False Bay, South Africa. You can read most of the details of the swim in my “as it happened” account of the swim (linked below) from yesterday. Also, Steven Munatones wrote a great article “Ned Denison Faces the Truth in False Bay” on his Daily News of Open Water Swimming blog. In this article, Ned explains how the swim became unexpectedly tough in the last few kilometres…

A very happy and prosperous New Year to everyone!

Ned Denison’s False Bay Swim LIVE

Read below for an “as it happened” account of Ned Denison’s historic swim across the infamous False Bay, South Africa. Ned’s unofficial swim time was 11 hours 5 minutes and he is only the fifth person ever to have completed this swim…

Image – Google Earth

The above Google Earth image shows False Bay with the starting point at Rooi-Els (east) and the finish at Miller’s Point (west). Ned’s approximate route is shown in red…

16:22 A huge thanks to Roger Finch of Cape Town who kept us all up-to-date on Ned’s progress in the absence of the SPOT tracker…

16:18 Ned’s unofficial time was 11 hours 5 minutes, a super time for a 35 km ocean swim! As an added bonus, Ned finished the swim with the same number of appendages with which he started it. What an achievement!

16:14 Ned Denison of the USA and Ireland has just become the fifth person ever to complete the 35 km crossing of False Bay, South Africa from Rooi-Els to Miller’s Point on the Cape Peninsula. Congratulations, Ned, on completing this astonishing challenge!

15:38 There must have been a miscalculation somewhere along the line: the pilot is saying that he estimates another 30 minutes before Ned finishes. Very exciting!

15:33 Roger says all of the phones on the boat are busy so it’s likely that he’s finished, just waiting for confirmation now…

15:15 Really close now! Ned has been swimming for 10 hours 10 minutes and is just 1 km from the finishing point. No currents or obstacles so he should be landing at Miller’s Point in about 20 minutes… Go Ned!

14:50 Just 3 km to go now, Ned is powering on! He is in the water almost 10 hours now and still going strong. Very exciting for everyone present…

13:30 Nearly 8 hours 30 mins elapsed now and Ned has just 7.5 km to go. Roger says that there is a lot of boat traffic at Miller’s Point at the moment but that will be cleared for Ned to finish. Dig deep, Ned!

12:25 With 7 hours 20 minutes elapsed, Ned has 24 km down and 11 km to go. Roger says that the water is still 19ºC and the conditions are very good. As he gets closer to the Cape Peninsula, he should be getting more shelter from the south-westerlies. Lots of good wishes come in from swimmers and non-swimmers from South Africa and the world.

11:00 I just got another update from Roger. He says that, just coming up on 6 hours into the swim, Ned has 15 km to go (so he’s over half way) and the conditions are still excellent with water temperatures over 19ºC all the time!

09:20 Ned has been in for 4 hours 15 minutes and has covered 15 km. He is battling a strong head-current but is swimming strong! Send the boat some encouragement using the #CmonNed if you can… Coming up on half way now!

08:00 After 2 hour 33 minutes, Ned had covered 11 km. Below is a photograph of one of Ned’s feed stops taken from the main boat, hopefully we will have more pictures as the swim progresses! You can follow my Twitter feed directly to the right of this post for more frequent updates…

Photograph – Roger Finch

Ned during one of his feeds in False Bay!

07:20 At 06:57 UTC (1 hour 52 minutes into the swim), Ned had 25.5 km to go. Conditions are holding and the water temperature is now an “unbelievable” 19.2ºC! On Twitter, you will be able to follow #CmonNed soon enough.

07:10 Just over 2 hours into the swim now and conditions look as though they will remain good for the rest of the day. Hopefully the current will change before long and Ned will get back to something nearer a 4 km per hour pace…

06:47 Sorry for falling asleep there! Last update from Roger is that Ned started from the agreed point at 05:05 UTC. Conditions at the start were good except for a slight swell and the water temperature has increased to 18ºC. He had 5 km covered 1 hour 30 minutes into the swim. There is a strong current against him but he is swimming strong.

04:20 It sounds, at the moment, like the boats are still on their way across to Rooi-Els. I’d hope to have confirmation of the start pretty soon. Roger Finch will be in contact with one of the pilots and will relay the updates to me. He kindly explained that the SPOT tracker isn’t working because they do not cover much of the southern half of Africa!

02:00 This post has just gone live automatically and, as far as I know, the swim is still going ahead as planned. When I spoke to Ned yesterday evening, he had already put on his sun protection and eaten his rather ominous sounding Last Supper! More updates will appear above (under the Google Earth image showing Ned’s progress) as they come in…

Update from Cape Town: Ned hopeful of False Bay attempt tomorrow morning…

The latest update from Cape Town is that Ned is “99% sure” that he will get to make his attempt to cross False Bay tomorrow morning. After a week of rather windy weather, a small window has appeared starting tomorrow morning. Conditions will be less than ideal but Ned is prepared and is conscious that he can’t wait in Cape Town indefinitely.

The planned start time is 06:00, I am not sure whether this is local time or Irish time. In any case, there’s only 2 hours in the difference so, if the swim goes ahead as planned, Ned will start at either 04:00 or 06:00 UTC tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, the SPOT tracker doesn’t seem to be working so we won’t be able to track Ned’s progress online. I’m hopeful of getting updates from Hugh Tucker, who will be on the support boat. If I do get these, they will appear on my Twitter feed (to the right of this post)…

Ned has been swimming regularly in False Bay over the last few days, both to prepare himself for the conditions and to become accustomed to the notion of having great whites in the water. Reports of a large shark in “knee-deep” water in Fish Hoek can’t be good for his nerves, but Ned doesn’t seem overly phased by this. He often reminds us that, in the HBF Rottnest Channel Swim in Perth, Western Australia, you are more likely to have your arm severed by the prop of one of the escort vessels than be attacked by a shark. That’s very reassuring, or maybe not!