Tag Archives: Metalman

Cork Distance Week Copper Coast swim

Cork Distance Week has become increasingly well-known over the past few years since it started by Ned Denison in 2009, succeeding the Champion of Champion races of the previous two years. I’ve been involved every year either as a swimmer or a volunteer and last year I hoped to bring the Camp swimmers over to the Copper Coast for a swim, but as ill-luck had it, we had a 48 hour south-easterly gale before and on the planned day, the one wind which makes the entire Copper Coast and much of the rest of the south coast unswimmable.

A brief précis of Distance Week is enough to tell whether you have distance swim genes. It’s held over nine days, with twice daily two-hour swims at six am and six pm with a Torture swim on the final Saturday, and a six hour qualification swim of multiple laps of Sandycove on the final day. Most swims are around Sandycove but the Camp travels to the Blackwater, Inishcara lake, Lough Hyne and other locations. Total swim volume over the camp is from 80 km to 140 km, depending on year and whether you can get through every swim. If this sounds in any way attractive, you have the illness.

Given the two and half hour drive from Kinsale to Tramore, Distance Week organiser Ned wasn’t keen to include the swim this week. So I engaged in some blackmail, favour for favour, and the swim was added.

Busy morning in the Newtown & Guillamene car park
Busy morning in the Newtown & Guillamene car park

Those of you here will know this, since its the entirety of our world now, but for everyone else, Ireland is having possibly its hottest June and July in a generation. It’s welcome since we literally had no summer last year, as it started raining on the first of June and rained for the rest of the summer, and this was followed by the coldest spring in sixty years.  Previous to the last year we didn’t have any real sunshine for the five years before that, and the last year considered a good summer was … 1996. (Weather everywhere seems to be about extremes and records now, which the Climate Change Deniers and Luddites will tell you has absolutely nothing to do with the highest recorded atmospheric carbon).

Not long ago we were suffering in unseasonably cold air making the cold water tough and in a mere few weeks of continuous sunshine water temperatures have risen sharply reaching the magic figure of 14 Celsius a couple of weeks ago and continuing upward. Further increased heat had the water in Tramore Bay reaching 15 to 16 degrees by mid-day when I did a scouting swim over the planned course at low tide. Jellyfish were disappointingly absent, especially since I’d been stung all over my face myself only a few days previously.

With the good weather, it seems the entire population had decamped to the coast. The club (Newtown and Guillamenes) allocated precious parking spaces in the car park for the swim and word was working it way around the area that “there’s a big swim on”.  One person was heard to say that the lobster pots about two hundred metres out in the bay were “the inner line for the big race. Off out there!

The swimmers started to arrive by five thirty. Former Club Chairman and Mayor of Waterford Ollie said a few words welcoming the swimmers and giving a brief overview of the club’s long stewardship of the area.

Gabor, Sylvain, Donal IMG_6632.resizedWe had twenty swimmers including one world record holder Hayden Welch. Globally know Australian marathon swimmer Penny Palfrey, swimmers from the UK, USA, Canada, Malawi Waterford and Cork, friends from previous distance camps included Carl Reynolds and Helen Gibbs. And my boys, my Hungarian stepson Gábor and world record Aspirant Sylvain Estadieu.

I did a quick swim briefing with a large map so the swimmers would know the course, gave them the waypoints and turning points, local swimmer Colm Breathnach the only one who knew the course. I had also anticipated asking them a question I hoped they’d never been asked previously in a swim briefing; does anyone suffer from claustrophobia  (No-one did). And there was a follow-up question, was there anyone who hadn’t done a night swim? The group was made up of very experienced swimmers and most had swum at night, though a few hadn’t. With sunset still four hours away, I explained that the course would include a long cave swim!

 

Newtown Cove exit
Newtown Cove exit

Given the large crowds, I decided to start them at Newtown Cove off the shingle beach (for a bit of extra Dover training simulation) and we all trooped down, the line of tanned and elegant Speedo and swimsuits-wearing models capturing everyone’s attention.

We let the two slowest swimmers off first, then I led the next group out toward Newtown Head, to be followed by the fastest swimmers, as I wanted to group everyone under the Metalman before proceeding and I didn’t want anyone getting cold while waiting, though given the warm water and sunshine this wasn’t a significant concern.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe assembled in the water, the RNLI rib under command of Raymond Cowman keeping us company on the outside. I indicated the darkcave under the headland, the Sun now sliding into the west actually making the entrance less darkly intimidating that it is in a mid-day Sun, when the shadow is impenetrable.  And then I led them all into it, stopping under the rim to show that once into the shadow it’s not as dark. We then swam into the inner cave, the water quickly going pitch black.

Inside the Cave
Inside the Cave

I have to say that reaching the inside and looking back to see twenty swimmers follow me, with Gábor and Sylvain right behind me, into a place where I usually swim by myself, was as much, if not more a thrill for me as the cave was for many of the swimmers. There was plenty of hooting and then we (mostly) exited on the right-hand side of the west side entrance.

Leaving the cave

There were a couple of young anglers on the rocks on the far side of the Headland, and from being alone, suddenly twenty swimmers swam out of the cave.

Cave entrance
Cave entrance

From there it was back around the headland and the swimmers set off of the pier of the beach. I waited until all swimmers were in front of me, and had a chat with the RNLI crew.

Rib and main group passing the pier (not visible)
Rib and main group passing the pier (not visible)

I exited at Newtown Cove (as did a couple of others who wanted a break from all the swimming and travelling) so I could get changed and watch the group from the cliffs. I had time for a few chats before I moved to above the Comolee’s rocks. Two swimmers were passing underneath having turned at the pier, and in the distance the main group had passed the pier on the way back from the beach.

Classic open water swimming pack formation
Classic open water swimming pack formation

Gradually the lead fast group came closer and in the zoom lens I could make out Ned, racing as usual. Tern minutes from the Comolees saw the final  swimmers round the rock into Newtown Cove, the late evening Sun directly into their eyes, and threaded between all the casual swimmers. Depending on the speed and lines taken by the swimmers they had swim up to seven kilometres in the two hours.

Finishing_MG_6617.resized

We had a chance to stand around chatting a bit afterwards, I got to meet most of the swimmers, some finally in person after previous online correspondence, whether Twitter, my blog or the marathonswimmers.org forum.

Distance Camp Copper Coast group shot
Distance Camp Copper Coast group shot

I was very happy and indeed honoured to have so many marathon swimmers visit my usually solitary playground. I appreciated that it wasn’t a short trip, and I certainly hope they enjoyed themselves.

Next year I’ve got a longer cave for them.

Unusually good weather

The weather in Ireland has been broken for the past five days. It didn’t operate as normal. It’s the end of March and instead of the usual dull cold grey, it’s been warm, bright and sunny. So like quite a few others I changed to a few days of sea swimming and even did a 5k, which is a first for me for March. Last year I didn’t do 5k open water until June, in 2010 it wasn’t until the middle of May.

My assertion is, despite belief to the contrary, Irish people are actually optimistic based on the single fact that whenever the weather the good, we believe it will last forever,  even though we’ve had entire summers without five consecutive days of any good weather.

I’ve recently purchased a Kodak Playsport camera, which is waterproof and shoots HD video, for a very reasonable price of about £80. So finally, finally, I’ve started taking some video of Tramore Bay and Newtown Head to share my playground with you all, instead of just the usual static images. The water is still only 10 degrees Celsius so I couldn’t spend too much time floating and getting cold, but I’m delighted to have made a start. A couple of these were shot on cold bright days a few weeks ago.

Don’t forget to select YouTube’s HD option for each.

Lowest low tide of the year. Shot with camera sitting on rocks underneath normal low tide mark.

Looking out to the Metalman and Newtown Head.

Looking up at the Guillamene.

Out further toward Newtown head

Suddenly … Gráinne!

Newtown Head. Wait for the underwater bit at the end, and see the colour of my dreams.

 

 

Tall Ships 2011. Leaving Dunmore East

If you’re in Ireland, you’ll probably have been bombarded by the coverage of the 2011 Tall Ships Race, which was starting from Waterford, the second time it’s started from the port.

Last time in 2006 I visited the berthed ships, but this time Clare gave me the chance to go out with her on Orca. I met her in Dunmore East yesterday morning, which was glorious.

Dunmore East, yachts and the estuary in the morning

Thinking I’d be early at 9am instead it seemed like half the country had thought the same. And my attempt to outwit the traffic by taking the coast road was a waste of time. Once parked I had to walk about 20 minutes to the fishing pier to meet Clare on the dinghy. Not a long walk … unless you are wearing deck shoes. Bleeding heels by the time I arrived.

Dunmore was very busy. Roads had been closed since 7am and access to much of the low cliffs between Counsellor’s (the strand) and the harbour had been closed.

Blue sky and warm, it was one of those brief Irish summer periods, when the whole country takes advantage of some sunshine. There were tens of thousands in town, with thousands in the park and on the road looking down.

Crowds in Dunmore

There were a few helicopters around, including the Coast Guard. Since I was late arriving, it wasn’t long after we got out on Orca and came off the mooring that the first ship arrived out from the estuary, the largest ship in the fleet, the Russian sail training vessel Mir.

Mir passing Dunmore

Mir was followed by Gloria while the CG Helicopter flew overhead.

Mir & CG Heli passing LE Aoife

Gloria passed the Irish Navy’s L.E. Aoife and the crew lined up on the bow for the three gun salute that each of the first few ships received. With almost no wind, Clare iron-sailed out with the fleet. Tall ships, traditional fishing vessels, large yachts, old sail trawlers, pleasure crafts, modern yachts, ribs, pleasure cruisers and kayaks. (And a couple of those jet skis that practically every other marine person hates).

Europa with backed sails

 

Of the tall ships only Europa had sails raised, but with a very slight Force One onshore they were backed so she was sailing under power against the wind.

 

 

 

Orca from the bow

 

The line for the race start was actually five miles offshore and quite long. Clare has some problems with barnacles in the engine intake of Orca, so we had to stop twice to sort it out.

 

 

 

At that stage it realised we weren’t go to got the full way out the start line. And with almost no wind the start itself was delayed anyway.

 

 

By now we were about three or four miles out from Dunmore, past Hook Head and the lighthouse. The Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operational lighthouse in the world.

The Hook Light

We were well east of Tramore Bay. About six miles from the Metalman and three from Brownstown Head which were quite hazy.

Brownstown Head from the east

By now the revised start time had been announced, 3.30 pm. Because of the poor wind and forecast, the fleet hove around to sail up the east coast instead.

Orca heading out of Dunmore

We were well on our back by this stage, and indeed most of the inshore fleet had already returned.

Clare dropped me off on the pier so she could sail back to Dungarvan.

Dunmore strand

Dunmore still had lots of people enjoying the remainder afternoon and the weather. It’s Ireland. It might rain for weeks from tomorrow. The VW camper van cost me a lot to arrange to be there just at that time for the photo.

From above, the estuary looked great in the sunshine.

I’m always happy to sacrifice a day’s swimming for a day’s sailing. But this day was the best of both, as I still had time to get across to the Guillamene for my first warm swim of the year there, as the water in the cove had warmed up in the low tide and sun to 13.5 °C. Outside it was about 13 °C. Even the previous day it had only been 12 °C.

I swam around the headland again, and into the entrance of another of the sea caves, the largest one, first time I’ve been into that one for some time. A couple of guys on an outcrop on the cliffs about three-quarters of the way out seemed astonished to see someone swim past because I could see them silhouetted against the sky as I went around Seal Rock, still watching me. (Seal Rock is what I call the rock outside and below the Metalman because of the shape of two rocks on the top of it. I’ve no idea what it’s actually called, but this is Ireland so every rock has a name. (Pictures if ever I can afford a waterproof camera.)

I picked up my first proper sting of the year, right across the nose, (which to be honest I’d forgotten about until I wrote this).

A good day messing about on and in the water.