Saturday 23 March 2019

William swims Channel!

John Manning

A Swords man has completed a gruelling 14 hour swim across the English Channel after his second attempt at one of the world's most iconic long-distance sea swims.

Swords man, William Irwin, swam the English Channel, taking 14.4 hours to complete the epic task.

He had a support boat, the Optimist, along side and a fantastic crew all the way over, including his wife Orla de Bhal and sister-in-law Elizabeth Kavanagh.

It was William's second attempt at the Channel swim, having narrowly failed to complete it in September of 2016.

William had been training hard for this second attempt at the swim for almost two years, despite holding down a full-time job and supporting his wife and two children. Landed on Wissant beach in France at 8:05pm on Sat last week.

The day of the swim began at 3.30am for William but he confesses, he was already awake. 'You don't really sleep knowing what lies ahead,' he said.

By 3.45am, William's support crew start appearing. Few words pass between the team, all conscious of the enormotity of the task that lay ahead.

A three mile journey to Dover Marina followed and at 4.15am, William and his support crew met with their pilot, Paul who will steer the support boat behind the sea swimmer.

It is a 40 minute boat ride to Samphire Hoe where the attempt would begin in earnest, and thankfully, the sea was flat calm.

At 5.30am, William begins to get greased up with lanolin and vaseline to keep him as warm as possible in the cold waters of the English Channel and with a few photos for posterity and some hugs and best wishes, he was off.

William remembered: 'A few seconds later the foghorn sounds and I enter the water, next stop France. I swim alongside Optimist as she turns and also faces for France. In my enthusiasm I overtake Optimist and swim towards the distant horizon.'

The first sign of trouble comes at hour five in the swim when William feels 'something is not quite right'.

He said: 'I pop my head up from the water and experience my first bout of sickness as I decorate the English Channel with what looks like the last carb mix I had.. Head down again and swim on but only make 20 yards before I pop my head up again and I am violently ill which lasts for 20 seconds.

His support crew rushed to help with some ginger and after this brief blip, William is on his way again.

In the hours that followed, all kinds of challenges emerge including numerous jelly fish stings but the Swords man swims on.

By hour 11, he can see the French coast and it spurs him on through the last gruelling hours of the swim.

The Swords man struggled to his feet when he reached the shore but was victorious in the attempt.

He said: 'The enormity of what has occurred engulfed me and I was overcome with emotion.'

Fingal Independent