2016 World Record Ice Kilometre for Sabrina Wiedmer

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Words by Maureen McCoy & photos by Paul McCambridge

I first met Sabrina in September 2015 at the Copeland Islands swim, where she was the first

swimmer into Donaghadee Harbour after the choppy but fun 3km plus swim. The event that year

was in memory of my late friend, Sheena Paterson who loved the swim between the island and

harbour and I know Sheena would have been delighted that a woman won it!

Some weeks later, on a trip to sunny Dublin, Sabrina met with me at Bull Island for a swim interview.

I’d never been there before and we were lucky to be blessed with glorious weather so late in the

season. As we prepared for our dip looking across the bay towards Dublin Port and the Poolbeg

chimneys dominating the skyline, Sabrina and I chatted about her swimming history. In her native

Switzerland Sabrina was a 50m Back Stroke swimmer – quite a change to then become a long

distance Front crawl swimmer. Shoulder injuries prompted Sabrina to give up the sprint Back Stroke

but her love of swimming pushed her on and she told me how, since changing to Front Crawl, her

shoulders have been fine.

Sabrina said she tried sea swimming, and despite still being a little scared of what might be in the

sea with her, she loves it. She joked that sometimes she closes her eyes so she won’t see the fish.

Since Sabrina came to live and work in Ireland and joined the “Irish sea swimming family” she has

never looked back and continues to find new friends throughout the country.

As we carefully walked down the bank of steps into the sea we talked about the ice mile, “I don’t

know how many ice miles I actually swam before the event. I went home to Switzerland and trained

in the lake almost every day, it became easier!” Even with her record of achievements in long

distance swimming, when Sabrina applied to enter the Lake Zuric marathon event, she didn’t get in.

“I’m told people rarely get in on their first application, hopefully next year!”

Sabrina has certainly started 2016 off in a positive mode; well done, Sabrina in your latest feat of

matching the world record fastest female to swim a kilometre in 13minutes 58seconds, in water

temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius!

And the best of luck for the rest of the year!

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Sheena Paterson V. President ILDSA 1954 – 2014

Sheena Paterson  – 1954 – 2014

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge 

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Today Bangor Boats set sail to bid a fond farewell to one of the stalwarts of the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association, Sheena Paterson. Brian Meharg took two Oceans Seven swimmers, Darren Millar and Kimberly Chambers, and me out to lay Sheena’s wreath into the North Channel, the stretch of water she had such affinity with. Before we left the shelter of the harbour Brian read a poem and then we motored out, with the waves crashing against the prow of the boat and the spray whipping across our faces. Well out into the channel we stopped the engine and on behalf of Sheena’s ILDSA family, Brian and I faced towards Scotland and threw the bouquet into the sea saying our last goodbye to a good friend.

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“This is my wee piece of water. I love it here.” Sheena told me of Donaghadee and the North Channel and as the first woman to swim the Copeland Islands to Donaghadee I think she could claim that for her own. Sheena had a real love for the sport and encouraged so many swimmers, giving back to the community more than her share.

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Welcoming Michelle Macy on her North Channel record breaking swim.

ILDSA President Billy Wallace, Maureen McCoy, Michelle Macy and Sheena

Sheena was an inspiration to many and a friend to me, with always a hug and words of encouragement to greet me at the beginning of an event, then another hug and congratulations at the finish. Sheena’s was the face I would see at the end of every Lough Erne 17km, urging me to sprint into that wall, her finger poised over the stopwatch button. She showed me how, as an observer, to “never take your eyes off the swimmer. No matter how uncomfortable you are, they will be more so.” and she certainly practiced what she preached. Many times I would see her, coat zipped up tight against the wind and rain but she wouldn’t leave her post until every swimmer was accounted for.

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Sheena, Kevin Murphy and Alison Streeter, King and Queen of the Channels

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Anna Corin Nordin on her 1st Female Oceans Seven Swim

 

After yesterdays’ funeral service at Newtownards, where Sheena arrived in her own unique style in a beautiful woven coffin then had us smiling through tears, feet tapping to Status Quos “Rockin’ all Over the World!” the eulogy was so very her. Sheena’s family asked us to take the ILDSA wreath to do something with and so we thought one last trip into the channel was a fitting tribute.

My hat off to you Sheena, one of a kind, I will miss you and glad to have known you.

Maureen

Thanks to Brian Meharg, Bangor Boats for taking us out. Jeff Wilson, ILDSA, for organising the wreath. Margaret Smith, a good friend of Sheena’s, who’s idea it was, and Paul for taking the pictures.

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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