Over 90 competitors joined in last Saturday’s Eddie Skelly Memorial Swim raising £642 for this year’s chosen charity – Overseas Plastic Surgery Appeal. This was the first year that the Eddie Skelly was part of the H2O Play Swim Series and the first time it has attracted both wetsuit and “skins” categories of swimmers. In fact the swim was also part of the Global Swim series – the largest swim series in the world with over 35,000 swimmers, 77 races in 19 different countries.
Amelia Tyler won the 750m race in just 12 minutes 34 seconds followed by fellow Juniors Tom McGrath and Ewan Nicholson. First Veteran was Gareth Archer. Erin McConnell upstaged the Seniors in the 1500m race winning in a fantastic 19 minutes 25 seconds swum in slightly choppy waters due to the light northerly breeze. Neil Bolger led the Seniors with Niall Monaghan first Veteran male and Julie Murphy first Veteran lady. Full results below:
The Eddie Skelly Memorial Swim is of course named after Eddie Skelly who was the chief coach at Bangor Swimming Club for many years and sadly passed away a few years ago. Eddie was also the Irish Olympic swimming coach at the LA Olympics in 1984 and a former Irish international water polo player. He was one of the most respected coaches and was responsible for many successes at club, Ulster, Irish, Commonwealth and Olympic level. For most of his swimmers Eddie was a unique man, teaching them to swim and influencing their lives.
The race was first swam in Groomsport Harbour in 2011 but has moved to Ballyholme Yacht Club over the last couple of years with the surge in Open Water Swimming in the bay. Led by John and Grace McLaughlin and members of BYC, they now have over 500 registered swimmers and attract up to 100 swimmers every Monday evening throughout the summer. This year the season was extended from May to late September and members of Bangor Swimming Club and Peninsula Triathlon Club regularly use it for their training. Peninsula also held their Sprint Triathlon this year at Ballyholme Yacht Club and there are plans to extend the number of races next year with Aquathons and other sea swims.
Another group regularly seen this summer has been the Donegal Diamonds Ladies Waterpolo Club who have used the Monday nights as training for their recent relay swim from Donaghadee to Portpatrick. The assault on the North Channel got away from Donaghadee at 0400 hours Last Wednesday 24th and arrived in Scotland at Portpatrick some ten hours later. The water polo playing swimmers sponsored by PSI, Ireland’s Lighting and Rigging specialist, had two teams swimming in relay with the Crazies team first home in a time of nine hours and fifty-six minutes.They were followed by their club colleagues the Deadly Diamonds in ten hours twenty minutes. The intrepid participants who subject to ratification think that they have broken three records.
In fact the North Channel swim has attracted a number of challengers this summer and many have used Ballyholme Yacht Club as their base. The North Channel is one of the world famous “Oceans Seven Channels” and has attracted swimmers to our shores for many years although their feats are only now become more recognised. Of special note is Shubham Vanmali who tried to swim the North Channel in early August but as he was a late registrant, he was second in line for the weather window. Shubham is a sudent from India who has swam many of the world’s “Channel swims” including the Strait of Gibraltar and English Channel at the age of 18, and Catalina and Manhattan Island Marathon Swim last year. Unfortunately with poor weather for the first half of his North Channel swim, he tired just 1 mile from Portpatrick and had to be pulled from the water almost unconscious. He hasn’t given up however and is back in training to try again in early September when the weather looks more favourable.
Open Water Swimming continues at Ballyholme Yacht Club every Monday night until 26th September. Wetsuits are recommended and bare-skinned swimming is only allowed for experienced “skin” swimmers. Swims are held around a 750 metre course and swimmers sometimes do up to 4 laps. Safety cover from kayaks and ribs with trained first aiders is provided. Everyone is very welcome and registration is open from 6:00pm. Cost for adults is £5.00 while children are £3.00 with use of showers at BYC afterwards.