Dungarvan Bay - Ballinacourty to Helvick

edited October 2013 in Swim Reports
OK, at only 4k this swim is considerably shorter than what most on here are interested in reading about, but I feel this section is very much under-utilised, so I'm doing my bit. Also, as I don't blog, facebook or twitter, marathonswimmers is as close as gets to social media for me.

I have worked in Dungarvan for a number of years and had heard snippets about this particular swim, which is a fundraiser for the local lifeboat service. It had a reputation for being difficult to gain entry to, but this year it was to be opened up to a larger number of swimmers than before. I believe that traditionally swimmers had been dropped offshore by boat to swim into Helvick pier, but this year there was a shore-to-shore option and this is what really interested me.

I had earlier in the year completed a 5k in very calm conditions but a couple of weeks later had the very disappointing experience of being pulled for exceeding the time limit at a 2k swim which took place in somewhat tougher conditions in Myrtleville. This left me in something of a quandry regarding where I stood in relation to qualification for other swims. I had a successful 5k under my belt but also a 2k DNF which was weighing heavily around my neck. I was back in the sea the next day and put in a fast 2k to satisfy myself somewhat that it had been the line that I took rather than swimming ability that had let me down. Just the same, to be fair to swim organisers, I felt obliged to build my record up again from scratch. A charity swim run by the local triathlon club offered the ideal oppurtunity in that they run a 500m, 750m and 1,500m on the same day. I completed all three and inspite of it being 90% wetsuit swimmers, I even scraped into the prizes.

From here I moved on to the 2k Lee Swim where I had set myself the target of knocking 8 minutes off last year's time. This year there was a significant tidal push however, and I ended up taking just over 11 minutes off which was actually good enough for second in my category. With EC and MIMS soloist Gabor Molnar in my category, second was as good as a win!! A few more training swims in Clonea with the Waterford Open Water Swimmers (WOWSers) and I felt confident that I was ready and able for Dungarvan Bay and more importantly, that I was suitably qualified from an organiser's perspective.

On the day previous to Dungarvan Bay I loosened up with the Nore Swim in Kilkenny, a very easy 1k river swim. Not very challenging but socially very enjoyable, and with great safety cover and a very nice finisher's medal, the Nore Swim is an example of what introductory open water swims should be like. What a pity that it doesn't appear on the calendar.

What would I know, never been further than 10k ....

Comments

  • Sunday morning brought a lovely sunny day but there was a strong breeze creating a swell in Dungarvan Bay when I arrived at Ballinacourty pier. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that a doubt crossed my mind for a second, but I was determined to atone for Myrtleville, and conditions, if not ideal for swimming, were certainly ideal for that. In my favour was the fact that there were plenty of large marker buoys visible on the route making navigation considerably easier. There was an army (navy?) of kayakers on the shore along with a flotilla of RIBs all preparing for action so I headed straight down to register where I was glad to be told that the shore to shore was to go ahead as planned. 14 swimmers were to swim the shore to shore, with about 40 more to be brought out to halfway in the RIBs.

    I changed into my togs and put on the swims very dodgy looking numbered hat over my own silicone one. Latex hats NEVER stay on me properly, and I knew that in these conditions it would have no chance. I dropped off my bag to be brought across to Helvick and walked down into the water as the swim was just ready to start. All but two of the others were in wetsuits and I was obviously the last to show up because we got going straight away.

    The water was beautiful at 16C, the nicest I had been in all year. I settled into a rhythm straight away breathing every third stroke and sighting every twelve. There were large buoys at 500m intervals with smaller buoys ever 200m for the second half of the swim. As we moved past the first buoy out into the bay the swell began grow and I switched to breathing all the time right as the waves crashed into my left shoulder.

    It was diffficult to see where the rest of the group were in the conditions but one of the other togs swimmers was swimming alongside me and we were accompanied by a relatively young paddler in a yellow kayak. Approaching the second marker (1k) I noticed the latex cap sliding back on my head and with the next wave it was gone. I grabbed it from the back of my neck and stuffed it down my togs. If you ever end up swimming Dungarvan Bay in blue hat 62, well,
    at least you know where it's been!!

    What would I know, never been further than 10k ....
  • I hadn't yet reached halfway when I noticed a boat which appeared to travelling out the channel to the open sea, and I yelled at the kayaker to know was I to leave it pass. He didn't appear to know what I meant so I just kept swimming. The boat had a mast but hadn't a sail up, and I don't know if they continued on after the swimmers had past, or if they were just out supporting us or even if they were part of the safety crew. I meant to find out but I never did.

    A squall arrived as I came to the 2k marker, the mid-point of the swim. I felt that I had been swimming a long time to only have 2k completed, but I took some comfort in the fact that there would be markers every 200m from here into Helvic. My kayaking buddy wasn't enjoying the squall at all, and was paddling with his face tucked in behind his upper left arm for a bit of respite. I must admit I felt sorry for him, because I enjoy swimming in the rain myself, but he looked miserable. I often wonder does everyone like swimming in the rain. I've heard many people say they like it, but can't recall ever hearing anyone saying that they don't. I think it's a bit like being in bed and hearing rain on the window. "You can't get me in here".

    The markers were going by quickly now but I ended up losing count. I had obviously opened a bit of a gap from my companion because I had a new kayaker of my own now. I was a little lower than I would ideally have liked as I came to the end of Helvic pier and had to put in a burst for a bit so as not to end up being pushed below it altogether by the current. Helvic is a working fishing harbour and as I rounded the pier I became aware of the taste of diesel in the water. I looked up and saw crowds of people who were there to welcome us in. The swim is part of a days fund-raising activities on the pier complete with face-painting, barbeque, music etc. I swam in to the slipway, and turned and sat at waters edge for a minute before standing up. I gave my kayaker a "thumbs-up" by way of thanks and gathered myself to stand up. I didn't want to be too "Bambi-legged" in front of the crowd, because I was guessing that there might be one or two work colleagues in their midst.

    I stuck around to enjoy the atmosphere and chat with other swimmers, and although it wasn't my longest swim I was very pleased with myself for coping with the conditions. The day was bright and sunny, and sheltered from the wind, I wasn't long warming up. The water had been quite warm except for one really cold patch at the entrance to the harbour.

    Back at work the following day, I headed up to the top floor and looked out at the bay. There is a certain satisfaction in being able to say "look out there, I swam from there to there". To non-swimming friends or colleagues, talking about laps of the pool is meaningless. Most can't get their head around the notion of doing big numbers in the pool. But a swim across a stretch of water, that means something.
    What would I know, never been further than 10k ....
  • @SuirThing, this is great! Thanks for sharing. I agree - the Swim Report section is much under-utilised!
  • Nice write up!

    One of the fun things about the Helvick swim are the crowds. You swim around the pier-end into the small fishing harbour, 150 metres to the slip and suddenly there are hundreds of people cheering & shouting. There even used to be a brass band. Free tea and burgers for the swimmers afterwards, local radio, plenty of craic.

    Unfortunately, with a required target of €250 to be raised by every swimmer for the RNLI for whom it is the main annual fundraiser, even after opening it beyond the previously restricted numbers, repeat entries and many previous regulars like myself have stopped swimming it.

    @SuirThing is on a certain track and we all know where it's leading, even if he won't admit it!

    I submit this as proof:

    "But a swim across a stretch of water, that means something."

    Yeah, I think we all know that one. ;)
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