This year marks the 3rd year of the Galley Head swim, which starts in Red Strand and finishes on the Warren beach. The distance of this swim is 10km unless you go off course and add more distance to your swim 🙂 . Sighting is very important to keep you on track , so practicing this in advance with just lifting head ever so slightly so that you can just see ahead and doing this regularly, approx. every 6 strokes, but having the boat by your side is a great bonus. Each swimmer or team has a boat which provides great sense of comfort while swimming in the water and also help direct your course. Last year I participated in the Galley swim as a 2 person relay with Emma Hurley. The conditions last year were spectacular and the water was like glass and the weather was like being in the Caribbean. When I got out at the Warren last year, I said to myself, I could have done more and thought 7km next year. Having had plenty time over lockdown to consider things, I decided, sure why not do the 10km?? The conditions this year is anyone’s guess, so training in all conditions is necessary.
My training got off to a bad start with shoulder issues but sticking at short distances of 1-1.5kms allowed me acclimatise to the water and not put my shoulder under too much stress. Luckily with all my classes and strength and conditioning , my fitness levels allowed me ramp up my distances quickly . With less than 5 weeks to go to the swim, the swim distances are growing and I’m currently up at 8.2km. I am delighted to be training with 3 fabulous swimmers, Steve Clery, Tony Rafferty and Kevin O’Regan, who have all done the 10km swim before and their experience and company is a great motivator. Steve is our swim captain, planning the distances and course each week . Steve is much faster than us so he has been assigned to chefing duties for the team, he is the captain after all :). He had fabulous breakfast burritos for us after our big swim last Saturday. Delicious and I’ll happily swim distance each week for that ( 😉 🙂 )
Like all swimmers participating in this event I must raise funds for the chosen charities, Marymount Hospice and West Cork Underwater Search and Rescue.
I spoke to the Galley Head Swim Organisers and members of the chosen charities, Marymount Hospice and West Cork Underwater Search & rescue.
Most of the equipment that is used in the unit personally belong to the divers, ie 4 x4 vehicles, boats, dive compressors, fuel, and much more. The unit has purchased some of the newest SAR diving technology from donations made to the unit. Funds from the Galley head swim will enable WCUSAR to purchase vital equipment and set up a base to serve as a training and operations centre for the unit.
Eamonn, can you tell me about your position in West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue?
‘I sit on the committee of West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue where I am currently the Equipment Officer. I was one of the founding members of this organisation back in 2012.’
How did you get into scuba diving? ‘I began Scuba Diving in Baltimore in 1994, I started with a ‘Try Dive’ and ended up doing the 5 day PADI Open Water Diver Course. West Cork is an amazing place to start your diving adventures with some amazing shipwrecks and beautiful scenic diving. Conditions as we all know around the South West Coast can be challenging and visibility can be limited to say the least on occasions, it’s for this reason that your experience and skills are at a very high level if you train in these conditions. When conditions are good it is just beautiful. In 2001 I became a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor and in 2012 I became a Search & Recovery Diver.’
Can you recall 1/2 rewarding experiences in a search and rescue operation?
‘So West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue unfortunately don’t rescue too many people, we are primarily called out to search &recovery incidents, although the skills I have as a Search & Recovery Diver have definitely played a very big part in some recent rescues I have taken part in with other voluntary organisations. It’s hard to describe the feeling a rescue brings, saving a life is something very special and I am very aware and respectful of the dangers this type of work entails. Success to me is coming home safe to my wife and family after doing my job to the best of my ability. I have been a Search & Recovery Diver for nearly 10 years now and during that time our unit has been tasked to many incidents. Our unit can be tasked by the Irish Coastguard 24/7 365 days a year. Any rewarding calls? I can honestly say anytime I put on a voluntary jacket/ dry suit it is a rewarding experience. Having the skills & training to be able to return a loved one back to their family after being lost in our waterways be they inland (rivers) or offshore is simply priceless. When that “Thank You” phone call from a Mum, Dad or other family member comes to me or another member of our unit after a recovery it brings with it a massive sense of achievement.’
What does a fundraiser like the Galley Swim mean for West Cork Underwater Search &Rescue?
‘To be considered a beneficiary of the Galley Swim once again this year is a privilege. Obviously in the current climate charities all over the country have had to re-invent their fundraising strategy so we really are extremely grateful. We have an exciting 5-year plan for our unit where we are hoping we will encourage new members to join. Plans are well under way for the design and purchase of a new Rib for the unit which will be used in Search & Rescue in West Cork & beyond if requested. Although we operate on a voluntary basis our unit is held in high regard and considered a professional unit all over Ireland for the operation & management of search operations.
Have you done the swim yourself?
‘I haven’t done the swim myself YET!!! This swim is just spectacular, I’ve done safety boat now for the last 2 years for Killian Deasy, and on both occasions I have said “that’s it Killian can find a new boat next year!” It’s spectacular but I also know it’s demanding and requires a lot of training and commitment to get to that level, I’m very slow to commit to anything in writing but never say never!!’
Marymount University Hospital and Hospice I spoke with Carol Walsh, Fundraising Officer for Marymount to get a bigger understanding of the importance of these fundraising activities.
Can you highlight the importance of fundraising activities for Marymount?’ ‘Marymount University Hospital and Hospice provides specialist palliative care services and services to care for the dependent older person. The palliative care service include a 44 bed in-patient unit, a day care service and an out-patient department, community based services and bereavement and family supports. The services for the Older Person include long term care options, respite care and palliative care support services. Marymount is heavily reliant on fundraising and is well supported by the Cork community. Marymount needs to raise 3.5 million euro annually to maintain the high level of Patient Care they provide. This year fundraising initiates will be focused on maintaining the current level of service and ensuring that patients are not adversely affected by the measures implemented as a result of Covid-19. Every donation, big or small is put to good use.
The Galley Head Swim event, although only in its 3rd year is growing massively.
- In 2019 for its very first event there were 26 swimmers, 15 support boats with 30 crew members.
- In 2020 there were 89 swimmers, 44 support boats with 80 crew members
- In 2021, 150 swimmers have signed up to this event, with 65 supports boats and 130 crew members.
This event requires so much planning and organisation and is heavily reliant on the support of volunteers. There will be 5 safety boats, the civil defence ambulance and a team of paddle boarders at the start and finish line.
The swimmers participating vary in age, ability and experience of sea swimming but all have a common goal and that’s to support this amazing event and help with the fundraising efforts for WCUSAR and Marymount. Each swimmer has a personal goal as well be it to swim the full distance or be part of a relay.
I swim with Steve Clery and asked him to share some of his experience of the Galley Head swim.
Steve will this be your 3rd Galley Head Swim? This is my 3rd Galley Head swim and 5th Marathon swim but the Galley Head Swim is very special.
What makes the Galley head swim special? There aren’t too many long distance swims that offer the scenery, the water quality and dare I say it the wildlife that this swim has to offer. I have travelled to quite a few different long distance events but the Galley Head Swim for me tops the charts.
How’s the training going? ‘It obviously takes quite a bit of training to swim a 10km solo swim. I’ve had the head in the water quite a bit this year so with 5 weeks to go I’m quite happy with where I am . We are lucky to have quite a range of fantastic swim spots around West Cork so there is no shortage of new locations to try out to keep things fresh.’
Any swim advice? ‘Generally conditions at the headland are fairly rough, last year being an exception. So a bit of rough water training is essential but obviously needs to be done safely. The one thing to remember if you are new to open water swimming is to stay calm. If You’re struggling in any way, just stop and take a minute to control your breathing. It’s a lot easier once you get your breath under control.’
Swimming has grown massively over the lockdowns and has resulted in several swimming companion groups forming, one local group that established themselves are the Clonakilty Dolphins. I got chatting to Neilus O’Gorman who set this group up.
Neilus, can you tell me a bit about the group? ‘The Clonakilty Dolphins is a swim group consisting of people who enjoy open water swimming and who want to swim safely by swimming with others. In July 2019 I joined a master’s swim class run by Billy Horgan at the Warren beach. Under Billy’s guidance I immediately became hooked on the idea of open water swimming. The key to improving as a swimmer is practice, “you have to do the hard yards”, and as a novice swimmer it is not safe to venture too far from shore on your own. While chatting to my good friend Tom Mulcahy in August 2020 we decided that we would go on a few swims together to help us both improve. As we prepared to get in the water at Inchydoney for our first swim we met Emer Murphy who happened to be going in for a swim the same evening. After our swim we agreed that we would set up a Whats App group to allow us to coordinate some swims and get some practice in. We named the Whats App group “The Clonakilty Dolphins” and so the swim group was born. Friends and acquaintances began to join us and currently the group has over 30 members. If someone is planning a swim, they post the details on the Whats App group and some other members will usually join them.’
What made you decide to register for the Galley Swim? ‘As our swimming improved, we naturally wanted to find a challenge to work towards that would help us improve our technique and stamina. The Galley Swim was the obvious choice. It is a challenging 10k swim that can be completed in a relay of 4 swimmers at 2.5k each and it firmly puts us well outside of our comfort zone. It is also a fantastic fundraiser for two worthy organisations. ‘
Are there many from the Clonakilty Dolphins participating in the Galley Head Swim this year? ‘We put a post on the Clonakilty Dolphins group to see who might be interested in doing the Galley swim. The response was fantastic, and we now have four teams entered to the swim with sixteen members of the group planning to swim on the day. We have set up a “Go Fund Me” page to raise funds for the swim and are hoping to raise €3,600. Training for the swim is a “win win” for the group as we are improving our stamina & technique, having good fun and supporting two great causes. We are looking forward to a great day out’
Sean Brennan is also a member of the Clonakilty Dolphins
Tell me a bit about your swimming background? ‘I was swimming from a very early age and in my early days was a river, pool and beach lifeguard. As the kids got older I involved myself in Cork Surf Lifesaving by assisting with the coaching and Munster squad for many years.’