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. 

At Ross Pier, the final leg of the Galley Swim 🙂

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 ( 😉 🙂 )


My skipper again this year is Bernard Hayes. As soon as I registered for the Galley Head Swim, I rang Bernard and was delighted that he agreed to be my skipper again this year. The skippers are a very important part of this swim as they are closely watching their swimmer and any hazards ahead.

Emmet and Bernard Hayes

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.

So who are the organisers???
Pat Mulcahy, Tony Rafferty, Geoff Wycherley and Justin Crowley
Pat how did the idea of this swim come about?
‘The idea for doing a 10km swim came from swimming the Galway Bay Swim in 2017 in aid of Cancer Care West. James Deasy, Steve Clery, Tony Rafferty and myself swam a relay and the following year we swam it solo. Myself and James spoke about maybe doing our own local charity swim given the fantastic coastline we have in West Cork. We thought about this for a while but as we were heading into the winter and so the idea lost a little traction until I said it to Justin Crowley and Geoff Wycherley in a bar on a ski holiday in Austria. Within an hour we had a course planned and agreed to go ahead with the first ever Galley Head Swim. Within a week or so Tony Rafferty joined us as one of the four organizers. ‘
How did ye decide on the charities?
‘My main aim was to set up a challenging charity swim and all the proceeds go to West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue. We thought if we could manage this swim correctly then it could become a very big event. We then discussed if we should contribute to two charities. Justin asked if we could consider the second charity as Marymount Hospice as Alice’s final days were spent there and he said the care was unbelievable. At that time my sister was also in Marymount Hospice and I also found the care to be fantastic. We then agreed that they were the two charities that should benefit from the swim. I am the current chairman of the West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue unit and was also one of the founding members. We always struggle to get funds into the unit and mostly have used our own dive gear, boats, compressors and fuel when training and on official searches. With the money from this swim we can now purchase some of the bigger items and in the longer term go on to build or buy a unit to house all our equipment. The dive unit is the most successful open water SAR unit in the country and is the only unit who have managed more than 100 divers on numerous search and recovery operations. The dive unit have been 100% successful in finding and recovering victims where other organizations have failed. It is imperative that this unit is funded as much as possible as families need closure on the loss of their loved ones. We thank everyone who has made the effort to train and to fund raise because of you, there would be no swim. Very much appreciated by the Galley Head Swim Team and West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue.’
Justin Crowley is another one of the organisers and well known in Clonakilty from his salon, ‘a cut above’ and his heavy involvement in Cork Surf Lifesaving.
Justin is at the heart of the atmosphere on the day of the event and takes a big role in the safety aspect of this event. Major planning goes into this from deciding on the date based on tides, organising many people to ensure the smooth running and safety of each person registering.
Justin what makes this event so special?
‘There is no event like this. It is quite unique, who would ever thought they would get the opportunity to swim around the Galley Head. It’s a mad idea really'( laughing  ).’Being on the beach and seeing the joy  and sense of achievement on people’s faces is just fantastic.’
How did you get involved as one of the organisers?
‘I was on a skiing trip and the idea was discussed and I was in. Geoff wanted the finish point to be in the Warren and we planned the 10km course backwards, hence the Red strand as the starting point. Swimming around the Galley is dangerous but we have had 2 very successful years and I am positive we will have another great year this year. The numbers are growing and its great to be able to support 2 great Charities. Marymount which is dear to me as Alice spent time there before her passing, and WCUWSAR as the members were self funding equipment , petrol etc and they needed financial assistance to support their wonderful efforts.’
The West Cork Underwater Search and Rescue was formed after the Tit Bonhomme trawler sank off Union Hall on the 15 January 2012. Divers from West Cork were asked by the Emergency Services to help with the underwater search as five crew members including the captain were missing. The local divers responded and asked other divers from all over the country to help in the mammoth task to finding the missing crew. Hundreds of dives were completed by the Navy Dive Unit, The Garda Dive Unit and up to one hundred recreational divers from all over Ireland. It took twenty-six days to recover all crew members. Divers from West Cork decided that a local unit was required to respond at short notice as It could take many hours for the official resources to mobilise. Some situations are a matter of life and death depending on how fast divers can respond. The local divers decided to put a professional structure in place with proper logistical back up and support to aid such efforts. West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue is a very active unit and is a member of the Irish Underwater Council (CFT). The divers in the unit are CFT divers, are Search And Recovery (SAR) qualified and a number are also qualified as Diver First Responders. The unit has been tasked numerous times in the past few years to search for missing people of the coast, in rivers and lakes in West Cork. Constant training is required all year around as conditions are very different depending on the weather. The unit is always on standby seven days a week and are willing to respond at a moment’s notice.

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.

I spoke to 2 members of WCUSAR, Eamonn Barry and Ian McLelland
Ian how long have you been a member of West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue?
‘I’ve been part of the unit for the past 4 years since moving to West Cork 7 years ago. I’ve been diving since I was in my early twenties (a long time ago now!) starting with the standard PADI licence but then progressing to include technical diving, cave diving, ice diving, divemaster and search and recovery diver. And I’m one of the least qualified divers in the unit!’
Tell me about your experience as a skipper for the Galley Head swim event?
Obviously the waters around the Galley can be challenging for all involved but it’s a spectacular stretch of coastline . Managing a boat for a swimmer requires constant focus and diligence on the part of skipper, crew & swimmer – it’s a real team effort!  But the event is really well organised, there’s an amazing buzz about the whole thing, and the sense of accomplishment is incredible. I loved the feeling of “handing off” my swimmer to the safety kayakers and paddle boarders just outside the Warren, job done! I was also very lucky to have a great crew on board the boat, including one of my kids, Patrick (8) and although it was a lot of work, we managed to have great craic at the same time!

Ian McLelland standing, Grainne Caulfield ,Maurice Shanley and Ber Downey behind

This year you’ve decided to be involved as a swimmer as a opposed to a skipper, how did you decide on that?
I’ve been involved with the event since it’s inception but always as a skipper supporting swimmers so I’ve never experienced the excitement and anticipation at the start line on the beach at red strand, or the atmosphere & celebrations at the Warren as swimmers exit the water and complete their goal.  So this year I thought it was time to experience the Galley Head from a different perspective & hopefully help to raise money for two very deserving local causes.
How is your training going?
Training is going well. With 6 weeks to go I’ve just had my first experience actually swimming out and around the Galley Head lighthouse itself. It was challenging but hugely rewarding. I just need to do it again now, but with a few extra km added on to make it into the Warren to collect my finishers medal!
I also got chatting to Eamonn Barry who is heavily involved with WCUWSAR

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.’

some members of the Dolphins. Photo take at Warren strand where the Galley Swim will finish

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

Sean what’s your swimming experience?
‘My own experience generally is that I love being fit & active. While I tried many sports and was literally a ‘jack of all trades’, in my younger days, football was my poison. Running soon took over and became a lifelong passion of mine. My favourite location is Inchydoney and each run there would have to be followed by a quick dip, winter or summer! While I could always swim I was never a swimmer, as such and didn’t even have a wet suit!
All that changed last year when Covid arrived. A swimming boom hit Ireland and many of my friends were hitting the water with gusto! I joined them for a few Swims last year and quickly realised that the principles of running & swimming were very similar. However, in order to improve, there was no silver bullet and no quick fix. One simply had to do the lengths, spend the time in the water and work on the technique and hope that muscle memory will eventually kick in!
All this was very fine but we needed a target an objective, something for us to focus on as we kept the Swims going throughout the winter. The obvious fit for our wild enthusiasm was the Galley Head swim on July 17th 2021 gave us, Dolphins, a suitable challenge as we will definitely be out of our comfort zone and will need fair weather on the day for sure!’
How is the training going?
‘Just 40 days left as the training intensifies, we realise there is plenty of work still to be done! However, we are very optimistic as there is great comraderie and support in the Pod and together we are confident we can do it for the Causes and for the Team. ‘
I also got chatting to Dervla Mulcahy who is also a member of the Clonakilty Dolphins group, a member of Cork Surf Lifesaving and also married to Pat Mulcahy.
What did you think when Pat told you about his idea about the Galley Head Swim?
‘For many years, I watched Pat participate in all his open water swims and seriously loved the Galway Bay swim event. I certainly agreed with him as to ‘why we couldn’t have such an event down this direction’.

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.’

Have you been involved in the Galley Swim yourself?
‘The first year I helped out on an SLS rescue board and thought I’d love to do the swim itself. Last year we formed a team of 4 ‘slaves to waves’ and I utterly enjoyed it. The whole experience was second to none. Needless to say, I was very proud of Pat and the Galley committee for making this happen. Seeing it grow each year into an amazing event and to have it on our own doorstep!

Slaves to Waves (Left to Right), Dervla Mulcahy, Debbie Van Damn, Carolann Timmins, Aisling Ward


How about this year? Will you swim again?
‘Debbie (who was on the same SLS journey as myself) and I vowed to do half of the Galley Head the following year, and here we are, true to our word! Training has been tough enough as both of us are real pool swimmers and really never did such a distance before. It was always short sweet and very competitive. So we had to basically slow down. Most of our training is in Duneen, but our longer training sessions have been in Lough Hyne. Lately since the buoys are back in Inchydoney, we have tackled the waves there as a motivational guide.’ But what is more motivational is the groups I ended up swimming with’
You are part of the Clonakilty Dolphins also?
‘yes, these swimmers are so inspirational, come from varying backgrounds and just a fun bunch of lovely souls’
Everyone participating in this swim and involved in the organising and volunteering on the day are doing it to help 2 well deserving charities. All donations given are very much appreciated by the charities.
my own gofundme link is here, but donations given to any of the swimmers will all benefit the same 2 causes.

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