The weather leading up to Christmas 2009 was arctic; perhaps even too cold for the hardy men and women who take an annual dip for charity. At 7:00am on Christmas morning the ground in East Cork was covered with ice and thoughts of people swimming in the cold Atlantic ocean seemed unlikely. And then the weather changed. The temperatures rose slightly, dissolving the ice and the rain came, cold and icy.At 8:15am the RNLI lifeboat flag was raised at Garryvoe beach by John West. This was John’s statement to the elements that their planned sponsored annual swim at Garryvoe for Ballycotton lifeboat would go ahead, despite the weather.
At 11:15am three Ballycotton RNLI lifeboat crewmembers, Niall Hassett, Aiden Sliney and William Sliney, abandoned their Christmas Day celebrations and put on their lifeboat gear. They were launching the lifeboat boarding boat and standing by off-shore at Garryvoe to watch over the fundraising swimmers. Niall said that if the fundraisers could go into the sea in this weather for Ballycotton lifeboat it is the least they could do.
At 11:55am Garryvoe promenade was like a summer’s day. Parking was at a premium. Family supporters came out in droves to support their hardy fundraising swimmers. Ralph Gunn was leading his band of fundraisers for Ballycotton lifeboat, with several family members and friends. His young son stayed in his mother’s arms, too young to join in the fun. Another son took a photograph of them ready to dive in which was sent to his supporters with the message to forward on their promised sponsorship money.
At 12:00pm sharp they carefully went down to the beach and ran into the water. The tide was high and they didn’t have far to go. Some took a few strokes before leaving the freezing water to be wrapped in the warm towels held for them by their proud families. With a few final words to friends they returned to their warm homes to continue their Christmas Day celebrations, with the thought that they will do it all again next year.
Ballycotton RNLI lifeboat would like to thank all those who took part in the swim on this cold Christmas Day. They would also like to thank all those who have supported them in any way throughout the year and hope that they will continue to do so in 2010.