Swimmers begin coastal marathon
MOTHERS wept, children cheered and a lone piper played as six swimmers waved goodbye and strode into the Atlantic yesterday to begin the first swim all the way around the Irish coast.
For the next four weeks, at least, basking sharks, dolphins and a myriad ocean creatures will be the daily companions for the Round Ireland Swim team as they tackle the 1,300km stretch clockwise and in relay formation.
Heading the expedition is record-breaking Donegal swimmer Henry O'Donnell who is joined by Ian Claxton from Dublin, Tom Watters from Galway, Nuala Moore from Dingle and Donegal brother and sister Ann Marie and Ryan Ward.
Hundreds gathered on a sun-bathed Carrickfinn strand in Co Donegal yesterday afternoon for a festive start to the event. A flotilla of boats and the Irish Coastguard helicopter accompanied the swimmers out to sea.
On shore, the Mullaghduff Flute Band and piper Brian McCafferty played them out. Minister of State Pat the Cope Gallagher joined local representatives and the swimmers' families and friends to give them a rousing send-off.
Each swimmer is expected to swim an average of 8km a day. Weather permitting, they may return to Carrickfinn within four weeks. Land and marine-based teams will co-ordinate the journey and be on call for emergencies. The swimmers will come on shore every night.
The project is expected to raise thousands of euro for the RNLI and will also carry out some scientific research along the way.