By Pádraig Mallon, Infinity Channel Swimming
On Saturday 11 July 2015 Team 210oSOUTHWEST set off from Cushendal (Northern Island) to travel to the Mull of Kintyre (Scotland) for the start of their Dál Riata channel crossing attempt. The planned route across the Irish Sea was pioneered in 2012 by Wayne Souter and theirs, if successful, would be the first relay crossing.
At 13:31 Mo McCoy, one of Northern Ireland’s first channel swimmers, entered the water, touched landfall on the Mull of Kintyre and the swim commenced in one-hour rotations under standard marathon swimming relay rules. Olive Conroy, a 16-year old Irish ice swimmer and indoor swimming champion, was next to take to the water.
The currents and eddies colliding around the Mull of Kintyre created high waves, chop and turbulent conditions for the swimmers to contend with but their training paid off and they powered through with smiles on their faces, even when a whale raised his head above the water for a closer look.
Next in was John McElroy who successfully crossed the North Channel last year with the Eleven Feet relay team. He picked up the pace with the turning tide and then passed over to Adrian Poucher, also of the Eleven Feet relay team.
After three relay rotations, and well past nightfall, the team was still swimming strongly and the Northern Ireland coastline was within touching distance. Almost.
For three long gruelling hours strong currents and eddies along the coast frustrated progress. In complete darkness, at 1:31 in the morning, Mo McCoy stepped up for her fourth swim, dived into the turbulent water, which now registered just 11.5 degrees Celsius, to battle for the shoreline, now only 1.3km away.
But after 50 minutes of fighting the currents, Mo had covered only 500m and the team was being swept past the point at which landfall could be made and at risk of being dragged into the North Atlantic. At 2:22 Mo, and team 210oSOUTHWEST, gracefully bowed to the sea.
As she was taken ashore, Mo repeated the words uttered by Mercedes Gleitze on 25 August 1928 after her third Irish Sea attempt: “I shall never give up.”
While Gleitze never did make another attempt at this crossing, 210oSouthwest plan to do so. To swim 47.5km in the Irish Sea is a fabulous achievement. To get within 800m of the finish line is hugely frustrating and means the swim cannot be ratified, but those are the rules of marathon swimming.
The swim was organised by Infinity Channel Swimming. www.infinitychannelswimming.com