Sunday 26 January 2020

'Jellyfish stings helped me swim Channel' - firefighter Rachel

Rachel Lee pictured with her sons Lex and Bruce on Portmarnock beach. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Rachel Lee pictured with her sons Lex and Bruce on Portmarnock beach. Picture; Gerry Mooney

FIREFIGHTER Rachel Lee has said jellyfish stings helped distract her from the cold during her record-breaking swim of the English Channel.

Mum-of-two Rachel (37), who lives in Malahide in Dublin, had been training for the swim for years in the hope that she could beat the record previously held by her partner, Tom Healy.

However, she hadn't bargained on the huge numbers of jellyfish she encountered as she tried to navigate her way across the 34km stretch.

"There's a problem with jellyfish in the channel and I think I met them all - I was stung quite a lot," she said.

"I got stung, but I could keep going. It was more of a distraction, really, from the cold and swimming.

"You're just looking at them going, 'Oh, Jesus'."


The coldness of the water, however, was something she could factor into her preparations.

Having been training for nearly three years, Rachel said she put on 5kg to help combat the temperatures, which have a stronger effect the longer you stay in the water.

Her Channel swim took nine hours and 40 minutes beating Tom's time by 11 minutes.

Even though he was defeated, there was no rivalry between the couple, only encouragement, said Rachel.

"It was quite tough and the tide was quite relentless. I had a great crew with me, and my partner was on the boat. It was really tough, but we kept going," she said.

"He's genuinely delighted. I think he'd rather me break his time than someone else."

Rachel and Tom are fire officers with the Dublin brigade, and Rachel recently rescued a man from the Liffey during a call-out.

The couple have two sons, three-year-old twins Bruce and Lex, which made it extra hard for Rachel to make time to prepare for her Channel swim.

"It was difficult trying to juggle work and kids," she said.

"It's expensive to do the swim - just to do the swim alone is about €3,000 and then you have to get there, pay for your crew, your training, your flights and accommodation when you're over there.

"I also had to do a good bit of training abroad, so we reckon it cost in all around €8,000."

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