Pickie to Pier Swim

Pickie to Pier swim welcomes a special participant this year

The annual Pickie to Pier Swim takes place in Bangor this Saturday, 24 June. Around 200 participants will swim the 800m route from Skipperstone Beach to Bangor Marina – and there’ll be a very special contestant in the water!

The annual Pickie to Pier Swim takes place in Bangor this Saturday, 24 June, at 2pm. Around 200 participants will swim the 800m route from Skipperstone Beach, just past Pickie playpark, to the RNLI slipway at Bangor Marina – and there’ll be a very special contestant in the water.

Fifty-four-year-old John Hamilton is making the trip to Bangor from his home in Birkenhead, Merseyside, to swim the race in honour of his mother, Anne Nelson, a former Irish Champion who won the contest several times in the 1950s.

An Irish legend

A well-known swimmer from Belfast, Anne (pictured below) swam for Ireland at the 1958 Empire Games, and was a regular competitor at the Pickie to Pier Swim for over a decade. In the 1960s, Anne and her husband moved to Birkenhead, where John was born. He inherited his mum’s love of the water and has been a lifelong swimmer.

Now a regular competitor in the annual Cross-Mersey swim, John heard about the resurrected Pickie to Pier Swim from family members who live in Bangor.

“I tried to register last year, but was too late,” says John. “So as soon as tickets went on sale this year, I was primed and ready to go. My mum died in 2009, so I’ll be swimming this race in her memory. While I’m in it to win it, I’m really just looking forward to the day. It’ll be an emotional one for sure.”

A successful return

After a 30-year absence, the legendary swim was resurrected as part of Open House Festival’s Seaside Revival celebrations in 2019. It is now a regular summer event once again, with hundreds of onlookers gathering at both the starting and finish lines to cheer the swimmers on.

“We are thrilled that the Pickie to Pier Swim has become a staple summer event once again,” said Kieran Gilmore, Open House Director. “It’s as popular now with spectators as it is with swimmers, and we’re looking forward to seeing crowds of people at Skippingstone Beach and along the pier cheering competitors on.”

Last year’s race was won by Jessika Robson, who successfully defended her 2021 win with a time of 9 min, 15 sec. In a very tight race, Jessika’s sister Holly Robson finished in second place at 9 mins, 25 sec, and third placed Sian Clements was just 20 seconds behind Holly.

Local prizes

Prizes will be presented by Cosimac, a Bangor-based outdoor clothing company who specialise in swimming robes and towels. They’ll be presenting a £100 Cosimac Dippers Bundle to the first swimmer home, a hooded poncho towel to the runner up, and a changing mat bag to the swimmer in third place.

Kieran Gilmore paid tribute to everyone behind the scenes who help to make the swim such a success. “We couldn’t run the event without the help and support of so many people, including Ballyholme Yacht Club, Kevin Baird at We Are Boat Folk, the safety crews manning the route, and our local RNLI. Special thanks to all the local businesses supporting the event, and of course to our own Open House volunteers who’ll be making sure everything runs smoothly on the day.”

Participants must be over 16, and confident, experienced swimmers who are capable of swimming 1000m within 30 minutes. The route will be supported in the water by kayaks, RIBs and paddleboards.

To find out more about the event, visit openhousefestival.com/event/pickie-to-pier-swim/ or email Lesley@openhousefestival.com

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Abi writes swimming news stories and features for the Outdoor Swimmer website and manages the social media channels. She loves to swim, run, hike and SUP close to her home in Herefordshire. While she’s a keen wild swimmer, Abi is new to the world of open water events and recently completed her first open water mile. She has previously written for The Guardian, BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC History Magazine and Ernest Journal.