BT N I Press Photographers Association – Sports Feature Picture of the Year

This image of our own Maureen McCoy ‘Winter Dip’ at Murlough Bay, Dundrum, Co Down won the Sport Feature Award at the Hilton Hotel, Belfast. The N. I. Press Photographers Association awarded Paul’s image of Mo, who trains regularly at Murlough Bay throughout the year, winter included, the prestigious accolade.

********Not for Online Use******** ©Paul McCambridge Photography Winter Swim

 

King and Queen of the North Channel Honoured by ILDSA

ILDSA HONOURS SWIMMING GREATS AT AWARDS NIGHT

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

King and Queen of the English Channel, Kevin Murphy and Alison Streeter, are crowned King and Queen of the North Channel, at the ILDSA Awards Night in Newry.

Even our own award winners’ achievements over the past year pale before these two and their myriad swims. Alison, amongst many other swims, has 43 English Channels, including being the first woman to achieve a triple crossing, and 3 North Channels, also the first woman and the first to swim Scotland to Ireland. Kevin has 34 English Channel swims, including 3 doubles, and 3 North Channels. Both have other swims too numerous to mention.

Alison had me in awe of how she can be so humble now about her phenomenal achievements, but as she told us that evening, that part of her life is in the past. Alison was genuinely pleased and surprised at receiving a standing ovation and said she has a soft spot for the ILDSA and the Irish, who have always made her feel very welcome and she wanted to thank everyone for supporting her in the past.

Brian Meharg, Master of Ceremonies, told me how he has been good friends with Alison since she first came here to swim the North Channel and related how, on her last swim in 1997, Brian’s wife Carina was pregnant and already a week overdue.  Brian smiled as he told me he was torn between staying home for his “fatherly duties” or heading out on the swim.  So, he headed on the swim and, as Carina waved them off, Alison firmly told her not to have the baby until after the swim was completed, adding that she would prefer if they both waited till Alison’s own birthday, 29th August.

Against all odds the dutiful baby did indeed wait and Rachel Alison Meharg arrived a further week late to share her birthday, and her name, with Alison Streeter as requested.

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The swimming part of Alison’s life is now firmly behind her and she has moved on to pastures new, breeding Alpaca on her farm in Wales and following her own spiritual journey. Animated, she chatted about her two new baby Alpaca and the exquisitely fine wool Alpaca hair produces wholeheartedly laughing as Carina described her own dog as “My baby!”

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Seeing Eye to Eye, Kevin and Padraig

Looking at Padraig Mallon standing with King of the Channel, a comment reached my ears. “Padraig could be a clone of Kevin, separated at birth by a few miles – and years!” Perhaps a degree of similarity can be seen between the two, I’ll allow you to make your own decisions on that.  As Padraig is beginning his adventure in ever more challenging open water events, he clearly shows a great respect for a man who has wealth of knowledge.

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Alison’s genuine words of encouragement to the gathering made me smile, although I do not quite believe her statement; “Anyone could do what I have done.” And, “Perhaps I have a great deal of bloody-mindedness!” It was nice to hear how she felt so welcomed in Ireland and that was why she kept coming back, Mercedes Glietze I believe, said something similar, even our bitter cold and hated jellyfish didn’t put these great ladies off!

With such a small community here in Ireland, there is a great mix in the swimming world with the uber-endurance swimmers rubbing shoulders (sometimes literally) with the sprinters and the leisure swimmers – many of us would see ourselves in more than one category – we all enjoy the great outdoors, and all deserve the hot chocolate/hot toddy after, the community spirit growing ever stronger.

Cus D’Amato said of a boxer, ”Knowing what he goes through, the very act of climbing into that ring stamps him a person of courage and discipline,” same could be said of these swimmers awarded by ILDSA, the open water, their boxing ring.

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BALLYGALLEY CO ANTRIM COAST

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A Tale of Two swims…

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

With the early evening sun on our shoulders Alison and I entered the calm sea at Ballygalley beach. I was struck by the simple beauty of the muted greens and greys of the sandy floor, moving through the spectrum to soft blue. The deeper water then revealed emerald green, bright with shafts of sunlight dancing across the sand.

The bay was flat calm, the water silky as Alison and I swam out to a large pink buoy then, keeping parallel to the beach, aimed for the rocks at the end of the bay.  The water was cool and perfectly clear, I could see the occasional rock deep beneath, covered with sea-weed in a desert of sand.  We passed two more buoys, their weed encased ropes curving down into the depths conjured thoughts of a ghost ship, covered in years of growth.

Turning back down the beach in an amicable front-crawl, together we swept past the Castle Hotel with its imposing façade.

The lighthouse beam from the Maidens swept across the beach as we left the sea,

dressed in our scruffy after-swim joggers and with salty hair and sandy flip-flops went into the Ballygalley Castle Hotel and ordered hot chocolate and coffee, and watched the sun go down over the glassy water.

Alison Cardwell and Maureen McCoy

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A year later and the same spot provided a very different swim. Michelle was waiting for favourable tides for her North Channel solo and was keen to keep her cold tolerance high. So on a windy Saturday with a group of friends, lulled by the recent hot weather, we bravely set off. The water was cold and choppy as we waded out and our sanity was questioned. Rachel and Erin led the way by quickly plunging in, followed by Michelle then myself and finally the boys, “It’s actually not that bad once you get going!” said a surprised Richard. Although it took a little time to adjust their breathing amidst the waves and chop and quite a lot of water made it into their mouths, they enjoyed the exhilaration of the surf.

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Michelle and I headed across the bay, feeling the power of the sea as the waves pushed us towards the shore and we had to adjust our course. We soared above forests of kelp, shafts of sunlight piercing the water and the occasional crab scuttling along the sea-bed on some errand, oblivious to the maelstrom above. We had to stop regularly to regain sight of each other in the choppy water – neither of us wanted to go back saying we’d lost the other!

Finally we returned, dressed and joined the others to sprinkle sand again on the hotels carpets!

Ballygalley

 

Parking in-front of the hotel with steps leading to the beach.

A long strand, popular with families and very clear water.

An ideal training ground for long distance or triathletes with approximately a 1km stretch across the bay.

BLUE LOUGH – Mournes, Co Down

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

Nestled in the centre of the Mournes Annalong valley, the Blue Lough is well-known to hill walkers and provides a lovely, cool dip after a hard days walking. I have often waded into this pretty Lough on a hot day, a favourite after climbing Slieve Binnian, walking along the tors and then the fast descent getting hot, and ready for a breath-taking dip in the fresh water!

On a hot day in July I brought Michelle and Erin up to this spot and after around thirty minutes of walking we rounded the Percy Bysshe and they had their first glimpse of the lough, surrounded by purple heather and tufts of Bog Cotton, the dark peaty water reflected the blue sky and clouds above.

We quickly discarded our walking shoes, stripped to our swimsuits and picked our way through the stones at the edge to drop down into the cool water, refreshing our hot faces and cooling our limbs. The scene was peaceful and quiet as we explored the lough, gazing up at Lamagan slabs to one side and Slieve Binnian on the other. We spent a good few hours in this lazy mood, climbing out to dry off in the hot sun, followed by another dip in the lough each time we got too warm.

Although easy to get to and a suitable walk for most families, one gets the sense of being right in the centre of the mountains, miles from civilisation.

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Down time for Michelle

Blue Lough     Annalong Valley         Mournes          Co Down

Blue Lough is situated above the Annalong Valley, between Lamagan Slabs and the North Tor of Slieve Binnian.  The route to the Lough is an easy walk from Carrick Little car park.  Follow the path alongside Annalong Wood, soon you will cross the river and the path rises up, passing Percy Bysshe you will see the small Lough straight ahead. 

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Darragh and Conleth enjoying one of the hottest days in the summer of 2010

North Channel Record Broken – Time 9:34:39

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North Channel Record and Oceans 7 Success for Michelle Macy – 15th July 2013
Words by Maureen McCoy
Photography by Paul McCambridge
Michelle Macy, the second female to conclude the Oceans Seven series of open water swims, did so in great style by finishing her final swim, the North Channel, in the record time of 9 hours 34 minutes and 39 seconds.
Just one week after first lady, Anna-Carin Nordin of Sweden, swam into the history books, Minnesota born Michelle was hot on her heels and finished the series also breaking Alison Streeter’s North Channel record, unbeaten for 25 years.
At 4.30 am on Monday 15th July 2013, Michelle and her crew met at Donaghadee harbour ready to load onto the ‘Guy and Clare Hunter’, a refurbished lifeboat piloted by Quinton Nelson. Via radio the Coastguard wished “Best of luck to the swimmer” as we motored round to Robby’s Point. In the grey-blue light just before the sun rose Michelle climbed onto the rocks, raised her arm signalling she was ready and at 5.00am, just as the red orb of the sun crept over the horizon, began to swim towards Scotland. With her toe-nails painted in a new green varnish – “Resolution” Michelle was off. In the first 40 minutes speedy Michelle had covered 2.3 miles and after an hour took her first feed, a warm energy drink, from here on she would stop every 30 minutes.
At 5 miles out, a seal popped his head up, he returned often during the swim, earning himself the nick name of ‘Curious George’, intrigued but keeping a cautious distance. Accompanied by kayaker, Conleth McCambridge to help guide her course in the chilly 13C water, Michelle soon encountered the North Channels renowned moon and lions-mane jellyfish. By 6.30 am Michelle had a lot of Lions-mane stings but, “My skin’s so cold I can’t feel them.” The hours went by with Michelle’s consistent stroke a steady metronome as each hand entered the water.
Nike endorsement??
3 ½ hours into the swim and bizarrely a lone Nike football drifted past “How random!” said Nike employee Michelle as the ball was rescued by the kayaker, a good luck charm perhaps? At each feed Erin, friend and training partner, would don various silly hats and wigs to keep Michelle’s spirits up Large laminated photos of friends back home were held out to remind her how much she was being supported. 4 hours 42 minutes into the swim and we had crossed the half-way point, now officially in Scottish fishing waters, “That’s the easy half done.” said pilot Quinton, “the push into Scotland is the hardest part of the swim”.  Michelle was getting colder and suffering more jellyfish stings but holding her pace and in the calm conditions with just a gentle swell, making good progress. By 12 noon, Quinton had the record in his sights and said, “If she can pick it up for 2 hours, we could have this swim finished.” Earlier quips about lunch in Portpatrick suddenly seemed within grasp. Michelle was asked to pick up her pace, “I’m doing the best I can! I’m not sure if it’s the cold or the stings but I can’t feel much.” By 1 o’clock tension was mounting, Michelle was looking strong but all were aware of how difficult the last couple of miles at the Scottish coast can be and with the tide bearing us south we held our hopes that she would get the record time. When asked for another hours push Michelle said “An hour is all I have.” We’ll have it then please.
At 1.22pm Michelle swam face first into a jellyfish, stopping abruptly she let out an angry shout and slapped the water with two hands – on the support boat we weren’t sure if it was jellies or frustration but, “If she’s got the energy to shout and slap she’s got the energy to get this finished fast!” was Erin’s comment. At 2 o’clock we gave Michelle the news that the record was in her grasp – this would her last feed – it was time to get this done.
After 9 hours 34 minutes and 39 seconds, Michelle climbed out of the sea at the cliffs just south of Portpatrick and finished the North Channel and her Oceans 7 quest.
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We motored into Portpatrick harbour and Michelle was able to get a hot shower, when asked was she doing okay, she called, “I’m going to stay in here for 9 hours and 34 minutes!”
ILDSA President and Vice President Billy Wallace and Sheena Paterson arrived at Donaghadee as we unloaded the boat to congratulate North Channel record breaker and Oceans 7 swimmer, Michelle.
Well done Michelle, it was a pleasure to be observer for you on a super swim and I look forward to Alaska!
Maureen
Read about Michelle’s paddle in Blue Lough
ILDSA President Billy Wallace, ILDSA Observer Maureen McCoy, Michelle Macy and Vice President Sheena Paterson
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World’s First Lady, Seven Oceans Swim – Anna-Carin Nordin, Sweden

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

On the 8th July 2013 at 7.11pm, after 14 hours and 21 minutes swimming from Portpatrick in Scotland to Blackhead Bay, Northern Ireland, Anna-Carin Nordin made history as the first woman to complete the Seven Oceans Open Water swimming challenge.

Meeting up with Anna the day after her achievement, she looked fresh and was happy to talk about her journey from the English Channel in 2010, around the world in swims and back. After such a long day before she was still keen to get back in the water for a “cushy” swim and I had the honour of a relaxing dip with this history-maker on another sunny day at Ballyholme.

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North Channel swim…

Brian Meharg, pilot of Anna’s support boat and Anna took the controversial decision to attempt the swim on a spring tide as the race was on with Anna one of  three ladies hoping to complete the North Channel this year and scoop the Seven Oceans 1st Lady title.

“Tide and time wait for no man or woman.” Said Brian, “The weather is good you should go now.” So at 4.50am Anna was in the water at Portpatrick with her hand against the rock face and the swim began. In the first few hours she encountered the swimmers dreaded jellyfish, Anna said “They were below me and spread out so I played a little ‘tricksie’ and was able to swim around them. I was lucky, I didn’t get stung.” She weaved her hand as she spoke showing how she’d avoided the jellies. “At the start of a swim you don’t want to be stung, at the end you are too tired to avoid them.”

Seal of approval…

The highlight of the swim for Anna was mid channel when a large male seal appeared and continued to swim with her for an hour.  “It’s so nice to see something different in the water with you – not jellyfish!” With the water temperature ranging from 11.3’C to 13.8’C, Anna got colder as the day went on, “But I came here to finish the swim, not to fail.”  So she continued on her way into the history books. The petite blond 41 year old from Sweden had just completed the Seven Oceans Swim Challenge with a smile on her face.  Her blue eyes glinting, she told me “My swimming rivals will have to fight for second place now.”

Finishing at 7.11pm on Monday 8th July 2013, Anna was greeted by ILDSA President Billy Wallace at Bangor Marina and Stephen Redmond, the first man to achieve the Seven Oceans, ‘phoned the first lady with his congratulations. Anna will go home to Jattendal, Sweden to a hero’s welcome.

Well done Anna and thank you for the swim and the chat.

2010: English Channel in 12:00:59

October 2011: Molokai Channel in over 18 hours

1 May 2012: Strait of Gibraltar

3 July 2012: Catalina Channel in 12 hours 40 minutes

September 2012: Tsugaru Channel in 19 hours 11 minutes

8 April 2013: Cook Strait in 8 hours 17 minutes

8 July 2013: North Channel in 14 hours 21 minutes

Anna-Carin comparing tan lines with Maureen and Rachel Smith

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