Tag Archives: guest post

Sandycove Island panorama (50% size)

Guest post: Ned Denison on Essential Volunteering to support solo swims and swimmers (with added maths)

Ned Denison is very much the rotational centre of the Sandycove group, and like a really big jellyfish, he has tentacles reaching out all over the world. To best describe Ned’s place, I’m reminded on an explanation by Mick Hurley, husband of English Channel Soloist and four-time Rottnest soloist and Magnificent 7 swimmer Jen Hurley. We were having dinner in Dover, Mick holding forth to the table (as usual), and we were talking about the Sandycove group.

Mick said that Sandycove was, de facto, a great place. For years, you’d have Irish people swimming there, everyone would be friendly and sociable, and would then go on their separate ways. But take just one American and drop him in the middle of it and almost before you know it, you have one of the most successful English Channel swimming locations in the world, you have organisation and success. Ned is the giant ball of glue from which the Sandycove island group grew.

He is an International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Inductee,  also a committee Member for Santa Barbara Channel Swim Association, Manhattan, the Lee swim, and In Search of Memphre, amongst other things, not the least of which is his long list of swims, from  English Channel and Santa Barbara Channel Solos, to Jersey France, Robben island, Rottnest, Round Valentia and Cobh islands (first time swims). He is the main force behind the internationally growing in reputation Cork Distance week, which if you want to tackle the English Channel from warmer climes, is the best week’s training in the world. For those who know him, he is also persistently confused by the difference between an email subject line and the body of an email text. It’s not unusual to get an entire paragraph in the subject line. :-)

Ned’s domain, Sandycove Island

This picture below is appropriate, it’s Ned doing the 2008 Irish Champion of Champion safety briefing. There are a bunch of Channel Soloists and future Soloists here, (Finbarr, Ossi, Ciarán, myself, Sylvain, Niall, Lisa) and including Kevin Murphy, listening. This is how we are used to seeing Ned.

Ned’s post here is sure to raise significant discussion in the worldwide swimming community. Make time to read and consider it. It’s important.

**************************************************************************************

Open water swimming is exploding with a massive increase in events together with swimmer interest and participation.

Fantastic – however behind the scenes, the inadequate numbers of volunteers places our growth future in jeopardy.

My biggest hope for the future of open water swimming involves a shift as WE SWIMMERS NEED TO START VOLUNTEERING IN LARGE NUMBERS.

“WHAT ??????”

“But Ned you don’t understand – I am involved in the sport to swim and have fun with my mates. I didn’t get involved to kayak, take times, crew a safety boat or spend hours before the event finding boats/kayakers and taking registrations. Anyways – surely the €10 to €50 I pay for each swim must cover all the costs? I assume that all the worker bees were getting paid big bucks to support my passion.”

There are a few commercial events out there – but 99% of all the open water events in the world are staffed by volunteers – typically raising money for a charity or doing a civic duty or just helping their friends and relatives. They not only don’t get paid and they are generally out-of-pocket for travel expenses, food and often overnight lodging and boat fuel.

I like to make the example of a swimmer who just completed an English Channel solo swim.

First of all – well done!

Now consider how many volunteer hours YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF to reach your goal? The phrase “took advantage of” is a horrible expression but bear with me for a moment.

Here is a possible tally of the time others gave along the way:

9 days in Dover (start counting from the moment your 3 crew members left home to their return)

9 days*24 (hours/day) *3 crew = 648 person hours

“But Ned, this isn’t fair! Part of this time they were sleeping, sight-seeing, eating the fish and chips I bought and sunning on the beach while I practiced a bit.”

Do you really want to go down that line? They were away from their families, Dover isn’t a holiday destination and I haven’t calculated their lost earnings while they were off work!

The “official observer” for the Channel swim – yes they are paid a small stipend but the 15 hours you swam with another 5 hours of travel was hardly a “paid” activity.

=20 person hours.

Your 6 hour channel qualification next to a boat with 2 volunteers

2*10 (6 hours plus travel time) = 20 person hours

Your 15k race (you had a full-time kayaker plus 1/5th of a 2 person safety boat crew and 1/20th of the 10 event volunteers on the day plus the 100 hours it took before the event to get it all organised

1*8 (5 hours plus travel time) + (2 crew *8 hours)/5 + (10 volunteers*8 hour +100 hours)/20 = 20 person hours

Your 5k races (let’s assume you had 10 in the previous 3 years) where you have 1/20th of a 2 person safety boat crew and the 10 event volunteers on the day plus the 135 hours it took before the event to get it all organised.

10 events * ( (2 crew*4 hours)/20 + (10 volunteers*4 hours+135 hours)/20 swimmers) =

92 person hours

 Grand total 800 person hours – or think of it as 100 person days (8 hours a day)

Shocked?

Hang on then because this is just the start – or all at the small end of the total.

I didn’t count your swimming buddies who took turns to swim (at your speed) for the previous two years. Having done a few 7am Sunday support swims myself, I can assure that they count as “volunteer hours”!

I also only counted the swimming related volunteer time – so your partner who covered 18 months of extra duties at home and with the kids – you need to work that one out yourself.

YOU CHANNEL SOLOERS OWE 100 PERSON DAYS (8 HOURS A DAY)

 For those swimmers who ONLY take part on 15 events a year and do not do the marathon swims…you still owe!

Your 2k races where you have 1/20th of a 2 person safety boat crew and the 5 event volunteers on the day plus the 80 hours it took before the event to get it all organised

15 events* ( (2 crew*4 hours)/20 + (5 volunteers*4 hours)/80 swimmers + 80 hours/80 swimmers) = 24 person hours (3 person days at 8 hour/day)

 YOU CASUAL 2K SWIMMERS OWE 3 PERSON DAYS (8 HOURS A DAY) – EACH YEAR

The numbers don’t lie. The logic is correct.

We swimmers know, deep down, that lots of people are involved so we can have our event.

For the vast majority of the swimmers – YOU ARE NOT PAYING BACK AT ANYTHING LIKE THE LEVEL YOU NEED TO MAKE IT BALANCE.

 

I am just back from the Rottnest swim – and even deeper in the hole myself.

 Jennifer (Hurley) helped the local organisation, and her family collect me at the airport etc. (ok they are friends – but still takes time) = 40 person hours

Clive (kayaker) paddled in 2 training swims and discussed the plan over coffee = 8 person hours

Clive then drove 2 hours to get to the location, stayed overnight, launched at 4:45am and paddled 5.5 hours (now let’s forget the time to have a pint!) then travelled back on the ferry to get home = 12 person hours

Mike piloted the boat and Barb joined me in a training swim and then crewed = 30 person hours

Then finally the Rottnest team of 100 strong put in (at a guess and probably low) 10,000 organisation hours – thankfully I can divide this by the 2,500 swimmers! = 4 person hour

So – another 94 person hours I have to pay back. This gets added to the debt from the previous 30 long swims and 200+ short swims….at 54 years of age I am not sure I have enough time left!

So, my call to action is to change the dynamic.

  1. Accept the principal that YOU OWE
  2. Start volunteering. Miss one swim in 10 to help.
  3. Learn to kayak. Borrow your brother’s boat.

Start now….

Finbarr's smile here belies the fact that his foot is planted on Liam Maher's neck underwater.

A Sandycove legend guest post: Finbarr Hedderman

Getting blood from a stone would have been easier than getting this article out of Fin. He was the first person I requested to do a guest post, a very long time ago, and many times since.

Fin is Sandycove personified (along with Mike Harris, Lisa, Ned, Stephen Black and Imelda). But don’t tell him I said that or it’ll go to his Cork head! :-)

Fin was born with the affliction of being a Cork person, so therefore he already knows he’s better than the rest of the world by default, since everything good in the world can be found in Cork. (It pains me as a Tipperary person to agree).

In his video tour of Sandycove Island below, towards the end he mentions a beach on the island that the Channel and marathon swimmers use for a feed station. What he doesn’t tell you is that it is actually known to us as “Finbarr’s Beach”. I can also tell you that you should never try to pass Fin on the inside going round a buoy if you don’t want to learn to swim with a partial concussion. (I speak from experience).

If you go to Sandycove, Fin will be there. Therefore go to Sandycove.

 

I have to admit I was a bit surprised to see the loneswimmer’s recent tweet that his website was now two years old; this meant that it has now been nearly two years since he started badgering me to write a guest post. Yet I couldn’t think what should mark my entrance into the blogosphere, my channel swim was so long ago I only remember bits and pieces of it and I’m not training for anything in particular at the moment; so nothing there to touch on. However I still retain a real grá* for swimming; it’s something I want to do nearly every day of the week, so maybe…

My swimming is based at various locations at the moment: I work in Clare during the week so I train with the masters section of Ennis Swimming & Lifesaving Club; I play water polo with the Cork Water Polo Club so I come down once a week to Cork to train with them and afterwards I join with the masters session of Sundays Well SC. But when the weekend rolls around there is only one place I like to swim and, despite the fact it’s January, this can only be in the sea around Sandycove Island, outside Kinsale in County Cork. This weekend I completed my 916th ever lap around the island, and I’m delighted to say it places me at number 5 on the leader-board of Sandycove laps. Later this year I hope to join Steven Black, Mike Harris and Imelda Lynch in the exclusive Sandycove “M” Club when I complete my 1,000th lap.

So for my first guest post I whipped out my new waterproof camera (thanks to my sister for the Christmas gift) and thought I’d introduce you to the Island we in Cork love so much (I must apologise before you watch it the team behind the movie especially the director, camera man, and script writer were fairly poor) and look out for the cameo’s from the loneswimmer’s hero Lisa.

And there you have it, a little intro for those of you yet to visit and a reminder for you who’ve already been.

ps: follow me on twitter: @mrfinbarr

*grá is the Irish for love.