In August 2015 Simon O’Donoghue and Aiden McAvinue decided to race each other 48 miles around the island of Jersey, with the winner buying the other a beer. The twist was that Aiden would run and Simon would swim.
In the end it was a close race, with Aiden finishing his run just under an hour ahead of Simon. Aiden finished in 9 hours and 54 minutes and Simon in 10 hours 41 minutes. The pair raised over £10,000 for the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation and the day was such a success that the charity decided to hold the event again in 2016. The ‘Jersey Round Island Challenge’ was born.
I planned to travel to Jersey in August 2016 to meet the latest addition to our family, my partner’s brother’s new baby. As usual when travelling anywhere, I was on the look-out for an event to enter to tie in with my trip. When I found out that the Jersey Round Island Challenge was taking place the same weekend we were in Jersey, and that the challenge now included a relay swim, I immediately contacted the organisers. Could they help me organise a relay team?
The reply was positive and Team Luke was formed: me, Craig Swart (skipper and swimmer), Ian Jones (co-pilot and swimmer), Chris Golding and JP Anqutel. Dee Richards of the Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club would be our official observer.
On the day of the event there were four relay teams (Elian Jersey Water Polo, Ed Shorrock, Had Yer Gobs and Team Luke). The lap of the island started and finished at Queen Elizabeth Castle, St Helier.
Ian was first in the water. As he headed anti-clockwise towards St Clement’s Bay I sat excitedly on the boat. I had an hour to wait before my first swim and it couldn’t come soon enough. Finally, I entered the water around St Clement’s Bay. Ian had taken us into first place. Heading towards La Roque Point the water was a cool 18 degrees, the sun was shining and the sea was clear and like a mill pond; it was truly beautiful. The boat was to the right of me and Jersey to the left. With one eye on Jersey I could assess and measure progress and with the other would see my team mates cheering me on. It was truly a great feeling that I had never experienced before. I was loving this!
I exited the water in the Royal Bay of Grouville, still in first place. Craig, one of the 2015 round-island solo swimmers, took over.
As we passed Corey Castle I received a phone call from my family, who were doing their own ‘Round Island Challenge’, following our progress from the shore. They were at the top of Gorey Castle, waving frantically. It was an uplifting experience knowing my family was out there rooting for me, having their own little adventure alongside mine.
Still in first place, Craig exited the water. Somehow though, during this take over, we slipped into second place as the water polo team pushed into the lead.
Over the next three hours as we swam along the northern coastline, one of the locations for the filming of The Guns of Navarone. The sky turned overcast, the wind picked up and the sea became choppy. Simon, JP and Ian definitely got the rougher end of the stick, but we held a solid second place.
As we rounded the north west corner of Plemont and Grosnez Point the sun made an appearance and I entered the water for the second and final time. Again the experience was exhilarating, as this time I was being pushed around like I was in a washing machine, swallowing a good deal of water but loving every second of the hustle and bustle.
Around Corbierre Lighthouse and on Craig’s second leg, we saw three dolphins. Craig was blissfully unware of them but they came quite close. It was yet another highlight of what was already a great and memorable day.
As we approached the finish line we were agonisingly close to a sub ten-hour finish, but despite our best efforts the tide was working against us. Ian completed the last few metres to give us a final finishing time of 10 hours and 2 minutes.
Elian Jersey Water Polo won the event in an impressive 9 hours 44 minutes with Ed Shorrock third in a time of 10 hours 13 minutes followed by Had Yer Gobs in 10 hours 26 minutes.
It was a truly inspiring day that had a real sense of community. Teammate JP summed it up when he said: “It was a great day, I loved it but I am aching like crazy now! I’m already in training for next year!”
Lots of islanders also came out to support and congratulate the other disciplines taking place on the day. Joel Graves was the first runner home in 8 hours 41 minutes, but the biggest applause was reserved for 68-year-old Peter Hanson, the oldest runner of the day, who crossed the line in 13 hours and 1 minute.
Next year’s Jersey Round Island Challenge will take place on 12 August 2017 and will include solo and relay swim options as well as run, SUP, row and kayak team and solo categories.
Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation website:
In 2017, Luke will attempt the Jersey Round Island Challenge solo swim. You can support him here.