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Irish among 2,000 to swim Rottnest

23rd February 2009

On Saturday the 21st of February more than 2,300 swimmers took part in the annual Perth (Australia) to Rottnest Island swim. Two swimmers from Cork:  Jennifer Hurley and John Conroy completed solo swims and Andrew Flanagan (Galway) and David Farrell (Dublin) completed a two person relay.

Always a challenging swim – but for swimmers from Ireland the challenges are even greater.  It starts with getting a spot in the annual swim lottery then you rent a boat and secure a crew by email and phone. The main season for open water swimming in Ireland ends in late September – so these swimmers continued most of their training in local pools (much of it with Masters Swimming Clubs).  Then the trip half-way around the earth wondering if the weather would allow the swim to take place, the crew will be good and the occasional thought about the aggressive sharks frequently spotted in these waters.

On the day the water was warm, nearly 23 degrees C, and the swimmers were helped by a very strong offshore breeze right from the start (18-20 knots).  Andrew and David are veterans of the Leinster open water summer competitions and Andrew was for several years one of the top 1,500m swimmers in Ireland – so they flew along.  Each swam for an hour in turn and they complete the swim in 5 hours and 57 minutes – 11th place in the very competitive 50+ (combined ages) male category.

Jennifer and John had a more difficult day.  While the wind did help drive them west towards Rottnest Island – it also took them south of the landing point.  They covered nearly three-quarters of the distance in less than 5 hours and were thinking that they had another two hours to swim.  To get to the finish, they then had to turn into the current and wind which had shifted more to the north.   The last quarter took nearly as long as the first three quarters of the race.  This is a classic difference between pool and open water swimming – the conditions can dominate!  Jennifer finished in 9 hours and John in 9 hours 46 minutes.  For both solo swimmers it was by far the longest and farther swim of their lives.

John got his first taste of marathon swimming as part of 6 person over-and-back English Channel relay in 2005 followed by the eight mile swim to Inisbofin in 2006 in a wetsuit.  Both events were organised by Martin Cullen the Secretary of Swim Ireland's National Open Water Committee.

Jennifer started her open water exploits with the 1,200m Union Hall to Glandore swim in 2006 and then signed up to join the other 92 other swimmers from Ireland who swam from Alcatraz that year.  She has since completed many of the longer open water swim in Cork and Kerry as she built up for Rottnest. Team

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