As the home of swimming in Cork, Myrtleville is rightly seen as a leader in all areas of right-thinking-swimmy-stuff. As part of our leadership role, the proliferation of “lap achievement” awards from smaller, more Westerly swimming groups (if three people on a good day counts as a group) has been noted. Hats and T-Shirts abound for any-old-number-you-fancy-yourself, down West.
In a carefully considered response, the Committee Of Nominations Around Really Tough Individual Swimmy Thing Stuff (work out that acronym for yourself) have today announced what is sure to become the pre-eminent, sought-after award for all aspiring sea swimmers, The Goat-Free Myrtleville Marathoner 2 & 1/2 Dutchman Laps Award.
While other “awards” are handed out like confetti to anyone who picks a number of laps out of a hat (and then puts that number on a hat), our criteria are different (now there’s a surprise), transparent and are – in fact – the most tremendous criteria ever for an award system.
The numbering system shown above – as provided by Mr. James Shalloo – to determine how many half laps (#goat-free) have been achieved follows a sequential process in iterations of one from the first to the third in relevant marker points, each of which marks a point on which one of the sequential numbers is marked. How clear is that?
If you’re still in doubt, here’s a clearer picture of a lap around the Dutchman to give you guidance. Note lack of goats and the precise angles of turns required for lap measurement. On this point, please note that submission of Strava data to verify laps is strictly forbidden. It is understood from sources at the North Corkorea Camps that this data is being used to track the vast volumes of swimmers in Myrtleville, as a pre-cursor to further attempts to lure them away to the “fresh” water.
The Award will be overseen by internationally-renowned marathon swimming coach, Eilis Burns, who is herself one of the first proud recipients. Ms. Burns rightly attributes her international success in Spain a few years back to her annual dip in Myrtleville. Ms. Burns will be supervising training plans and ensuring that all aspiring swimmers are fully prepared for this challenge. She is pictured here at the Announcement of the Award and Inaugural Recipients.
As ever, Viva Myrtleville!
The Swimmer, a short film featuring Steve Redmond, will be in the Cork Film Festival on Saturday next at 4pm in the Everyman Theatre.
Steve’s film is part of the International Short Films section and the line-up of films looks like a great couple of hours of entertainment.
Tickets can be booked here: Cork Film Festival Tickets
If you can be in town on Saturday, Steve would be delighted to see any swimmers there.Meet the stars – Steve Redmond gets to have his photo taken with Pat Higgins and Tom Bermingham. “Better than any Oceans Seven”, said Steve 🙂
This is my account of my Fastnet to Baltimore swim which I completed on 1st September 2017.
I had originally been training for the Galway Bay Swim which was to happen in July. Unfortunately, this year it was very difficult to procure boats and, much to my disappointment, I was unable to do the swim. I had been training solidly coming up to July and I didn’t want to waste my efforts. So, my Myrtle Turtle mates, Eoin Lowry and Anne Sheehy, and I set about looking to organise a swim that I could do.
Many years ago, a very wise young man, Owen O’Keefe, a.k.a. Fermoy Fish, said to me, always remember if you’re the first to do a swim, nobody can ever take that from you, no matter how long it takes you to do it – thank you Owen for that advice! So, with that in mind, I got talking to Noel Browne and Steve Redmond of the Lough Hyne Lappers and, between one thing and another, I found myself booked with Kieran Collins of Baltimore Angling – the most amazing boat pilot a swimmer could ever wish for – with a possible window of 1st September to swim from Fastnet Rock to Baltimore.
With no hesitation at all, Eoin and Anne offered to crew for me and I very gratefully accepted their offer. Both took time off work to be with me on my swim. We all know that a solo swim cannot happen on its own. As soon as the booking had been made, Anne set about making arrangements for our accommodation in Baltimore. Both Eoin and Anne supported me through all my training by kayaking for me, swimming with me, taking out Eoin’s boat in Cork harbour, figuring out the best feeding methods and helping me devise a suitable feeding plan for my first solo swim. Their dedication and commitment to me was incredible. They totally believed in me and that gave me huge confidence. I was warned that they were not going to let me out until I reached the slipway in Baltimore – there was the threat of a hurley being brandished if I remember correctly! In the weeks before the swim we met regularly, made copious lists and finally we were well organised and ready to do this swim. In hindsight, I now realise how lucky I was to have this pair crew for me. I need to speak about how indebted I am to both of them. Eoin won’t allow me get all emotional about this but Anne understands J I honestly feel that this swim has tied us together in such a special way. We are forever connected by the laughs, emotions and memories of our adventure. During the swim they worked tirelessly for me, minding me for Joe, never taking their eyes off me, feeding me, lifting my spirits when needed, tweeting, posting on FB and updating all my supporters of my progress. I am forever in their debt and will never be able to thank them enough for what they did for me.
At this point I would like to mention my husband Joe. Joe is not a swimmer and is not too keen on the water at all and usually leaves me off to my own devises when it comes to my swimming. However, when I had the swim booked, he understood how important it was to me and wanted to help in any way he could in the build up to my swim and, so, he spent long hours in Lough Hyne preparing my warm feeds while I lapped around during my training swims. Joe’s involvement meant so much to me and I was chuffed to see that he was so proud of me for taking on this challenge. Joe is a worrier and he was concerned for me that maybe this was all too much to take on but he kept his worries to himself and knew that I was in safe hands with Eoin and Anne and they would look after me.
Sailors the world over know of the Fastnet, notorious for its winds and rough waters, the turning point in one of the world’s toughest yacht races. Many swimmers have attempted to swim Fastnet but were unable to get the right weather and conditions. It is a lottery as to whether you get out or not – pure and simple. I had been on the phone to Kieran the week before I was due to swim and he was feeling very positive about the conditions for Friday. He was taking another swimmer, Paul, out the day before who had been weathered out previously. All was looking good.
We arrived in Baltimore on Thursday evening. We took a walk down to the pier to have a look at Kieran’s boat, Radiance, and rang Kieran to make arrangements for the next morning. His trip out with his swimmer, Paul, had been a success and he was very optimistic for me. We headed back to the house and had dinner and Anne and I surprised Eoin with a belated birthday cake and card. Once that excitement was over, we began to make up the feeds, make sandwiches and pack our bags for the next morning.
We were all in bed early but I struggled to get a good night’s sleep – the nerves were kicking in. Anne was up at the dawn filling kettles and, following a breakfast of porridge, we met Kieran at 05.45am. By 06.05am we were motoring out to the Fastnet. The sun was rising on the most exciting day of my life. I will never forget the beautiful red and orange hues of that sunrise. I watched the upper edge of the sun appear over the horizon and a calmness came over me at that point. I felt so ready to swim. At 07.35am I was greased up and jumping in to touch the rock. And so began my wonderful adventure.
I stroked away from the rock following my boat, Radiance, keeping to her starboard side. The water was warm – yay! The sun was up and the sea was like velvet. I had already decided in my head that I was not getting out until I reached the slipway in Baltimore – I would have to be pulled out by my crew or the pilot if circumstances required it. I was loving it! My feed schedule was set at every 30 mins. The time was flying by – before I knew it I had 4 feeds down.
I am now going to talk about The Wall. For some, it hits in the middle of a long swim, for others it’s that last stretch but for me hour 3 to 4 is my struggle. I can think of a hundred reasons why I should call it a day. I think the realisation of the huge task ahead hits me and I figure it’s too much for me. However, because this happens to me all of the time, I am now able to talk, curse and cajole myself into ploughing through it and just continue with the job in hand. So, with my “blip” over and done with by hour 4, I was back on track again. At this point I was unaware that I was not progressing well against a strong tide. In 4 hours I had only covered 6 kms. This was not good.
I switched to swimming a bit behind Radiance and following her because the boat fumes were causing me a problem when I was alongside. Feeds were going great – Anne and Eoin were doing a fantastic job – passing on all the good wishes and messages from all my supporters. Steve and Noel were on the phone to Kieran throughout the swim – I even had Steve on speaker phone shouting me on during one of my feeds! Kieran, my pilot, would come to the rail on my feeds telling me I was doing great – it boosted me no end. I could now see Cape Clear and was approaching South Harbour. I thought to myself, this is good, keep swimming, keep turning those arms over, you’re doing great.
But how long is that bloody Island! I have walked Cape Clear end to end during my Irish college days there in the late ‘70’s and I swear to God, it has grown longer! Let me say, I looked at Cape Clear for a very long time! Eventually, I could see the gap between Cape and Sherkin – the Gascanane Sound. I braced myself because I had been warned that this is the tough bit and it was here I had to pull on all my reserves, put the head down and dig deep. Strangely though, it wasn’t what I had expected, and I was making steady progress all the way.
I had made a decision not to wear my Garmin GPS watch – I felt it might be a distraction that I didn’t need. Despite not having my watch, it soon came clear to me that my 8.5 to 9 hr swim was now becoming a 10 or 11 hr one. I asked Eoin at the next feed and he confirmed it would be 10 hrs alright – he’s a great liar! I was okay with that – I was now in Hour 7 and all I said to myself was, right, 6 more feeds Maeve and you’re done.
Conditions began to change at that point. It got quite choppy and the wind blew up for the next 4 hrs. The waves were coming from behind and breaking over me and my rhythm kept getting disrupted. I was swallowing water on my breathing – I was coping but it definitely slowed down my progress. On my feeds I found myself shot to the back of the boat within seconds – a combination of the current and also the wind blowing the boat forward.
I remember listening to the legend, Steve Redmond of Oceans 7 fame, speak at the Global Open Water Swimming Conference held in Cork in 2013. He spoke about how he repeated his children’s names over and over in a bid to keep going through the tough times. Well Steve, I stole your mantra and my son’s names, Cian and Billy, became my driving force. A few prayers were thrown in for good measure too – my Mum who is looking down on me all of the time was called upon quite a few times too! And, guess what – I kept going as I knew I would, as Anne, Eoin and Kieran knew I would.
Eoin jumped in and swam (probably with closed fists!) the next hour with me. It was very comforting to have his company in the water. I am so accustomed to swimming on my own, trailing after other swimmers, that I thought I wouldn’t need a support swimmer. I was wrong. I hadn’t realised how much of a boost it would give me. The timing of the support swim was spot on too – I needed the lift.
Unknown to me, my carb liquid feeds were now boosted with energy gels – thanks Steve for that advice. Eoin’s hour was up in a flash and at my next feed, Kieran told me to look around and I couldn’t believe I was looking at the Beacon at the entrance to Baltimore Harbour. Nice one! I knew I would have the bones of another hour to the finish and I set off with a renewed energy.
I have never been good at sighting. In fact, I am shocking. So, I ended up weaving my way through the moored boats in the harbour and, with much shouting and roaring from Anne, Eoin and Kieran to get me back on line, I re-joined Radiance and who did I spot only Eilish Leader, my Myrtle Turtle mate, with a huge bunch of balloons on the slipway. She didn’t know it but Eilish featured in my visualisation throughout the whole swim because I knew she would be at the finish. Next time I sighted, I spotted Carol Cashell waving the Irish flag and Noel Browne alongside Eilish shouting and roaring like lunatics!
Finally, the concrete of the slipway appeared under me. I made a couple of attempts to stand up but my legs just wouldn’t cooperate! So, I unceremoniously sat on my backside and pulled myself clear of the water. Boat hooters sounded and the passengers disembarking from the Cape Clear Ferry cheered and clapped. I felt like a million dollars and the huge hugs and embraces from Noel, Eilish and Carol were the best! Within minutes, my loyal crew members, Anne and Eoin and my pilot Kieran were there hugging the living daylights out of me. What an emotional moment!
I was now the first woman to swim from Fastnet to Baltimore – job done! The whole swim took 10hrs and 45mins – a tad longer than expected!
But seriously, here is a lesson to all you swimmers who, like me, are not speedy, you too can become a marathon swimmer – just believe in yourself like I did.
It’s fantastic to see new swims being completed in Cork Harbour. There are lots of options here at home, without travel costs 🙂
From Ian Venner:
Another bright Saturday morning (12 Aug) found Gary Frost, Ger Venner and Maeve O’Connor sneaking up the Ballinacurra River a little before HW. Having had the taste of distance swimming in the harbour a few weeks back around Spike, a plan had been hatched. To keep mileage up in between, Maeve and Ger were joined by Shane Gannon and Breda Maguire (in togs) for a jaunt from Myrtleville to Roberts’ Cove the previous Friday. A lovely evening swim and well done to Breda especially, who had swum that route three years previously in a wetsuit.
There was a big surprise last night as Carmel Collins completed a fantastic North Channel crossing in a time of 15:58:21. Carmel decided to be very low-key in preparing for this swim, having found the pressure on her before her English Channel attempt in 2012 had distracted her focus. For anyone who doesn’t want it, the huge social media focus on swims in the last few years can create its own stresses. Carmel made the decision to cut out that external part of any potential pressure and it paid off for her. She was putting enough pressure on herself personally without any publicity.
The swim start was quite rough but then it calmed and conditions were very good for most of the swim. The biggest issue (and this will surprise anyone who knows Carmel) was the cold – it was a real battle. The water temperature was 12c-13c during the swim. Carmel had prepared for up to an 18 hour swim but was thinking in the first two hours that she wouldn’t be able to do more than half of that. She was frozen. As the day went on it got a bit warmer and in the second half of the swim there were hot (relatively speaking) and cold patches but the cold ones outweighed the hot ones and moving from one to the other was horrible! Carmel was shivering in the water and her hands were locking up at stages. Despite this, she was very mentally strong and really determined to get the job done, with fantastic crew support.
On board yesterday were her crew of Ger Kennedy and Claire Ryan with Pádraig Mallon and Kieran McClelland . The Pilot was Charles Stewart. Carmel was full of praise for the crew, who encouraged her at every stage with whiteboard messages from her family and even lied convincingly to her that she was seeing a dolphin…..
It was a Minke whale joining in the fun. This video taken from the Infinity Facebook page is one for Carmel to cherish! When she saw it first, Carmel thought “killer whale!!”. Fortunately, not – just an amazing experience! It swam under her for a bit, moving slowly. Carmel was able to see it clearly as the visibility in the North Channel throughout the swim as incredible.
The water was so clear that there was not time for any boredom, as there were constant distractions and things to look at. Being able to see clearly meant that “DodgeBall with Jellies” was the order of the day. While there weren’t as many as she feared, Carmel did get her first chance to go up close and personal with a Lion’s Mane. She swam right over him but avoided the tentacles and luckily didn’t get stung by him. She picked up a few stings from other jellies during the swim, but nothing to cause her problems. On balance Carmel reckoned the distraction value of being able to look at all the different colours and shapes of the jellyfish was well worth the few stings.
The big problems Carmel had for the swim – apart from the cold – were a couple she brought into the day – a really sore left shoulder and a long-standing dose of bronchitis. The shoulder meant a change of breathing side for most of the swim and the bronchitis caused a lot of breathing problems during the swim, with two hours or so in the middle being very slow as it kicked in badly. This time, however, she was determined there was no stopping her and even when she had feed problems and had to skip some feeds, she slowed down but never stopped.
Currents were very strong in the Channel. Ger Kennedy did one support swim during the whole crossing, with about three hours to go. After he got out, Carmel was looking at Scotland and thinking, “that’s it now, nearly there”. An hour later, she was still thinking “nearly there”. Another hour later…..same thing!! The current was a big push against her and reaching the shore in the dark felt like it took forever, over a distance Carmel felt she would normally have covered in 30 minutes.
Problems or not, there was no stopping and 15 hours, 58 minutes and 21 seconds after she started, Carmel Collins was a North Channel Solo Swimmer.
According to Carmel, Myrtleville to Monkstown and back is the next plan after a short rest. After yesterday, she says she can take on anything!