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Thousands of people are expected to take to the sea for Christmas morning charity swims, with coastal temperatures hovering around nine to ten degrees Celsius.

A full moon during Christmas week will result in higher tides that could make some areas of the coastline “more precarious”, Water Safety Ireland’s deputy chief executive Roger Sweeney said.

RNLI Water Safety Lead Linda Gene Byrne said it would urge people “when they decide to take to the water, to make time to ensure they are doing it safely and with the correct knowledge and equipment”.

“That time taken could save a life or another person’s life. If you need to call for help, everything that you have done to keep afloat could make all the difference,”she said.

In Galway, Cope Galway’s homeless charity is the main fundraiser for the Christmas swim at Blackrock tower, while Galway Simon held a “dip at dawn” on the day of the solstice last week.

Cope Galway’s event is a “hybrid”, in that participant can contribute by swimming wherever they are from December 20th to December 26th, while there will be a Christmas Day event at Blackrock Tower, in Salthill, on Christmas morning.

Registration costs €20 and includes a swim t-shirt.

“Casa Loughrea” is the main beneficiary for an event at Loughrea lake, east Galway. The Loughrea Icebreakers Christmas Day Swim takes place at 11.30am at the Long Point Loughrea, and swimmers will be served hot beverages to warm up.

The charity provides a social outlet for people with disabilities in east Galway in association with Loughrea Lions Club.

In Dublin, the busiest spot is expected to be the Forty Foot, while Seapoint in Blackrock, the Vico baths, Skerries, Portmarnock, Balscadden Beach and Clontarf are also expected to be busy.

As Afloat reported previously, The Coast Guard, Water Safety Ireland, and the RNLI are urging people to stay safe if they are out swimming this Christmas period.

“The increase in popularity of festive dips and open water swimming will see a lot of people taking to the water over the next few weeks. Many people will also avail of the opportunity to participate in coastal walks and hikes,”they have said in a joint statement.

For those taking part in winter dips and swims the advice is:

  • Never swim alone.
  • Ensure that somebody ashore is monitoring your activity.
  • Acclimatise slowly.
  • Stay within your depth.
  • Always be seen.
  • Organisers of Christmas Day or New Year swims are advised to have suitably trained personnel in attendance and to appoint a Safety Officer.
  • The safety advice for other water-based activities includes:
  • Always have a means for calling for help and make sure you can access it when you are out on the water.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return.
  • Wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.
  • Always check the weather forecast and sea conditions before you set off.
  • If you’re exploring somewhere new, seek knowledge from experienced practitioners in the area.
Published in Sea Swim
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Tributes have been paid to Galway teacher, photographer and open water swimmer Jane Hogan who died recently at the age of 77.

As The Sunday Independent reports, Hogan, who was one of the Kenny Bookshop family, was a competitive swimmer from an early age.

Her late father Des was first chairman of what was then the Irish Water Safety, after it was set up by the late minister and Galway West TD Bobby Molloy.

As her brother Tom Kenny said at her funeral, “Jane was an avid sea swimmer her whole life, always encouraging others to spend time in the sea which she considered the best medicine for all ills”.

“She was one of the regulars down in Blackrock where she swam daily most of the year round. She referred to her friends there as “The Blackrock Clinic”.

She was a keen photographer and an inspiring teacher at Salerno Secondary School.

Paddy McNamara, a fellow swimmer at Blackrock, Salthill, remembered how she would pull out the camera, and it was ‘stand there, pull in together’ as she got her snap, he said.

He said Hogan was very accomplished, competing in many open water events in Galway and beyond.

Her daily swims took a realistic tack as she would take a break once sea temperatures dropped below 10C, he said.

“Jane would say to me that she would return when we had ‘a week of tens’, as in 10C,” McNamara said.

In a tribute, Galway Swimming Club said that her “dedication to swimming was not merely a personal pursuit but a tradition passed down through the generations”.

“Jane’s influence extended beyond her own accomplishments, as her children and grandchildren continued the family’s tradition, carrying forward the torch of her passion for swimming,”it said.

Read The Sunday Independent here

Published in Sea Swim

Triathletes, masters and open water swimmers may benefit from a skills and training session which Swim Ireland is running this weekend in the University of Limerick pool.

The two-hour session will be held with one of Ireland's top performance coaches, John Szaranek.

Olympian Finn McGeever will also be on deck to help demonstrate the drills and give personalised feedback throughout the session, Swim Ireland says.

The freestyle skills and training will allow triathletes, masters swimmers aged over 18 and open-water swimmers to work on their technique.

Togs, hats and goggles will be required for the two hours, running from 1400 to 1600 hours this Sunday, October 1st, in the University of Limerick pool.

The cost of the clinic is 50 euros.

For queries, contact [email protected] and booking is here.

Published in Sea Swim
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About 100 swimmers will set off this morning on the annual Galway Bay swim, one of the largest open water events of its type on the West Coast calendar.

As Afloat reported previously, the swimmers will leave Aughinish on the Clare side of Galway Bay from 8 am to make the 13km traverse to Blackrock Tower in Salthill.

First participants are expected at Blackrock from 12 noon, where they will receive a warm welcome in every sense.

The 16th Frances Thornton Memorial swim was due to have been held on July 15th, but weather forced its postponement to August. Once again, a small craft weather warning led to another deferral, and some swimmers made their own arrangements, with safety craft, to ensure they could complete the challenge in aid of Cancer Care West.

A total of 154 had registered – 65 solo swimmers and 90 swimmers in 25 in relay teams. The event is Cancer Care West’s biggest fundraising event of the year, and well over a million euro has been raised for the charity to date.

Named after the late Frances Thornton of Galway, this year’s event is set to raise over 100,000 euro.

Swimmers have to undergo a time trial before being accepted, and are accompanied by RIBs from Clare to Galway crewed by a large group of experienced volunteers, including local inshore fishermen, swimmers and sailors, the RNLI and Doolin Coast Guard, Oranmore-Maree Coastal Rescue and Civil Defence.

For the final 100 metres into Blackrock diving tower, paddle boards and kayaks will guide the swimmers home.

Published in Sea Swim
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The 2023 Galway Bay Swim, which has been postponed twice due to weather, is due to take place this Saturday (Sep 9).

If conditions, permit, the fundraiser for Cancer Care West will set off from Aughinish on the Clare side of Galway Bay for Blackrock Tower in Salthill.

A total of 154 swimmers were registered when the first date was set in July – including 65 solo swimmers and 25 relay teams involving 89 swimmers.

A second date in August also had to be abandoned due to Met Éireann small craft warnings.

However, some committed participants have already completed their 13km crossing of the bay, having made individual safety arrangements.

One such is Wotjek Petasz, who completed his swim last weekend with safety boat support provided by Paddy Crowe of Inis Oírr, Páraic Conneely of Tigh Ned and Cáít Fieldman.

Crowe, an experienced mariner, said they witnessed four minke whales and up to 40 dolphins feeding en route across the bay, which he described as a “fantastic sight”.

Petasz has previously completed it three times before, including in a relay team and the “virtual” event organised by Cancer Care West during Covid-19.

Named after the late Frances Thornton of Galway, the event is Cancer Care West's biggest fundraiser. Well over 1 million euro has been raised for the charity to date, and this year’s event is set to raise over 100,000 euro.

Swimmers have to undergo a time trial before being accepted, and are accompanied by RIBs from Clare to Galway by a large group of experienced volunteers, including local inshore fishermen and sailors, the RNLI and Doolin Coast Guard, Oranmore-Maree Coastal Search Unit, and Civil Defence.

Updates on the rescheduled swim date will be on the Galway Bay swim website

Published in Sea Swim
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A Connemara nurse aims to raise funds for the Aran lifeboat by swimming solo across Gregory’s Sound.

As The Irish Independent reports, Barbara Conneely O’Brien, who is from a well-known Aran island fishing family, hopes to swim the three-kilometre tidal stretch between Inis Meáin and Inis Mór when the weather is suitable.

She has been training daily for “Snámh an tSunda”, as her swim is called, and has had a “fair few lashes” of Compass jellyfish over the last few weeks.

“I couldn’t even put my head in water before Covid-19 and practised using a bowl on the kitchen table,” she told the newspaper.

Conneely O’Brien lives in An Cheathrú Rua, and several of her siblings, including her sister Clíona, have made a career at sea.

Her late father, Gregory, survived a serious deck accident and was also involved in the rescue of one of his own boats, which went up on rocks off Inis Mór while his wife, Maggie, was about to deliver their first child.

Gregory’s Sound is a three-kilometre tidal stretch between Inis Meáin and Inis Mór Gregory’s Sound is a three-kilometre tidal stretch between Inis Meáin and Inis Mór 

Known as Sunda Ghríora in Irish, Gregory’s Sound is named after a hermit who lived on Inis Meáin.

Gregory’s mouth is reputed to have been turned to gold after he bit his bottom lip off in a fit of anguish over his sins, and he asked that his body be thrown into the sea in a cask on his death.

The cask landed across at Port Daibhche on Inis Mór – the same landing point that Conneely O’Brien is aiming for after she sets off from Inis Meáin.

The stretch of water has a north-east/south-west tidal stream, and was once plied by emigrant ships leaving Ireland for North America.

However, it can have confused seas in certain weather conditions, and so Conneely O’Brien has set a window of this week from August 7th to select a day to complete her swim.

She will be accompanied by her brother John Conneely, a fisherman, in a 21ft half-decker, Lady Luck.

She wants to pay tribute to RNLI volunteers, and wants to honour the memories of all of those who have died as a result of tragedies at sea.

So far, she has raised over 4,000 euro of her 5,000 euro target.

Read The Irish Independent here

Published in Island News
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Weather has forced postponement of the Galway Bay sea swim which is one of the largest open water events on the west coast calendar.

The 16th Frances Thornton memorial swim was due to have been held today (Sat, July 15), with some 150 swimmers registered to cross from Aughinish on the Clare side of Galway Bay to Blackrock, Salthill Galway.

Spokesman Brian Thornton said a new date would be set for next month, weather permitting.

About 60 of the participants aim to swim solo, while 90 participants were registered for the relay category.

Named after the late Frances Thornton of Galway, the event is Cancer Care West's biggest fundraiser. Well over 1 million euro has been raised for the charity to date, and this year’s event is set to raise over 100,000 euro.

Swimmers have to undergo a time trial before being accepted, and are accompanied by RIBs from Clare to Galway by a large group of experienced volunteers, including local inshore fishermen, swimmers and sailors, the RNLI and Doolin Coast Guard, Oranmore-Maree Coastal Rescue and Civil Defence.

Updates on the rescheduled swim date will be on the Galway Bay swim website here

Published in Sea Swim
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Galway’s iconic diving tower at Blackrock, Salthill, will be the subject of “rolling closures” over the next fortnight to allow for maintenance work

Galway City Council began work on the tower earlier this week, with power washing, followed by painting.

However, limited access allowed for a full moon dip by the “ Blackrock howlers”, marking the moon rise at 2120 on Friday night.

A sunrise swim to mark Pieta House’s “Darkness into Light “ fundraising walk was also scheduled for Ladies Beach at 5.30 am on Saturday.

Galway City Council says that the intention is to “prioritise the painting of the tower as quickly as possible”.

However, it noted that it was “weather dependant, hence the need for potential rolling closures”.

An Tostal regatta

Swimmers are asked to keep close to the vicinity of Blackrock Tower from 1300 on both Saturday and Sunday, while rowing and sailing take place off Salthill for An Tostal regatta.

Published in Galway Harbour

Water Safety Ireland is urging those planning festive charity dips to be mindful of the effect of a new moon on Dec 23rd which will lead to higher tides throughout the weekend.

Higher tides can hide unfamiliar depths and hazards that can result in injuries and entanglement. Staying within your depth and close to shore will help avoid rip currents that can take a swimmer away in cold water, where the onset of hypothermia can make it difficult to self-rescue.

Charity swims have grown in popularity, yet some swimmers occasionally take chances beyond their ability, finding themselves left without sufficient strength to climb out of the water due to the cold.

Sudden immersion in cold water can induce “Cold Shock” which can cause dramatic changes in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. The sudden gasp and rapid breathing create a greater risk of drowning, even for confident swimmers in calm waters.

To help prevent Cold Shock, festive dippers should first become accustomed to the colder temperatures by splashing themselves with water while getting in slowly. People should get out without delay and warm up quickly to avoid the risk of hypothermia.

Published in Sea Swim
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Researchers at the University of Portsmouth have initiated a study to determine if open water swimming has an impact on depression.

The researchers are seeking people in Britain to take part in the randomised control trial, where some participants will be offered a swimming course.

They will then be compared to a control group receiving their usual care for depression.

The University of Portsmouth team is working with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust on the study.

“Ecotherapy - offering therapeutic intervention in nature – is known to benefit mood,” the research team says.

“There is also emerging evidence to suggest that regular open water bathing could have a positive impact on a person’s mental health. Immersion in cold water gradually reduces stress levels in everyday life and generates a greater sense of wellbeing,” it says.

“The first aim of this project is to see if people will sign up to take part and also whether they remain engaged in the study to the end,” the team says.

“The second is to determine if those with mild to moderate depression benefit from an outdoor swimming course and explore reasons why any changes occur,” it says.

Dr Heather Massey of the university’s department of sport, health and exercise science says the aim is to offer a “streamlined study in more locations that more closely analyses the impact of the outdoor swimming course, the cost-benefit of the activity, and importantly if it helps people to recover, whom it works for and why”.

The researchers note that depression and anxiety in Britain are at “an all-time high, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“However, despite the increasing numbers of newly-trained NHS talking therapists, demand and waiting times continue to grow,” they say.

The study is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, and follows a small-scale study conducted last summer, the results of which are due to be published in the coming months.

Anyone interested in taking part in the study can email [email protected] for more information.

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About The Middle Sea Race

The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a highly rated offshore classic, often mentioned in the same breath as the Rolex Fastnet, The Rolex Sydney–Hobart and Newport-Bermuda as a 'must do' race. The Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club co-founded the race in 1968 and 2007 was the 28th Edition. Save for a break between 1984 and 1995 the event has been run annually attracting 25–30 yachts. In recent years, the number of entries has rissen sharply to 68 boats thanks to a new Organising Committee who managed to bring Rolex on board as title sponsor for the Middle Sea Race.

The race is a true challenge to skippers and crews who have to be at their very best to cope with the often changeable and demanding conditions. Equally, the race is blessed with unsurpassed scenery with its course, taking competitors close to a number of islands, which form marks of the course. Ted Turner described the MSR as "the most beautiful race course in the world".

Apart from Turner, famous competitors have included Eric Tabarly, Cino Ricci, Herbert von Karajan, Jim Dolan, Sir Chay Blyth and Sir Francis Chichester (fresh from his round the world adventure). High profile boats from the world's top designers take part, most in pursuit of line honours and the record – competing yachts include the extreme Open 60s, Riviera di Rimini and Shining; the maxis, Mistress Quickly, Zephyrus IV and Sagamore; and the pocket rockets such as the 41-foot J-125 Strait Dealer and the DK46, Fidessa Fastwave.

In 2006, Mike Sanderson and Seb Josse on board ABN Amro, winner of the Volvo Ocean Race, the super Maxis; Alfa Romeo and Maximus and the 2006 Rolex Middle Sea Race overall winner, Hasso Platner on board his MaxZ86, Morning Glory.

George David on board Rambler (ex-Alfa Romeo) managed a new course record in 2007 and in 2008, Thierry Bouchard on Spirit of Ad Hoc won the Rolex Middle Sea Race on board a Beneteau 40.7

The largest number of entries was 78 established in 2008.

Middle Sea Race History


The Middle Sea Race was conceived as the result of sporting rivalry between great friends, Paul and John Ripard and an Englishman residing in Malta called Jimmy White, all members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. In the early fifties, it was mainly British servicemen stationed in Malta who competitively raced. Even the boats had a military connection, since they were old German training boats captured by the British during the war. At the time, the RMYC only had a few Maltese members, amongst who were Paul and John Ripard.

So it was in the early sixties that Paul and Jimmy, together with a mutual friend, Alan Green (later to become the Race Director of the Royal Ocean Racing Club), set out to map a course designed to offer an exciting race in different conditions to those prevailing in Maltese coastal waters. They also decided the course would be slightly longer than the RORC's longest race, the Fastnet. The resulting course is the same as used today.

Ted Turner, CEO of Turner Communications (CNN) has written that the Middle Sea Race "must be the most beautiful race course in the world. What other event has an active volcano as a mark of the course?"

In all of its editions since it was first run in 1968 – won by Paul Ripard's brother John, the Rolex Middle Sea Race has attracted many prestigious names in yachting. Some of these have gone on to greater things in life and have actually left their imprint on the world at large. Amongst these one finds the late Raul Gardini who won line honours in 1979 on Rumegal, and who spearheaded the 1992 Italian Challenge for the America's Cup with Moro di Venezia.

Another former line honours winner (1971) who has passed away since was Frenchman Eric Tabarly winner of round the world and transatlantic races on Penduik. Before his death, he was in Malta again for the novel Around Europe Open UAP Race involving monohulls, catamarans and trimarans. The guest list for the Middle Sea Race has included VIP's of the likes of Sir Francis Chichester, who in 1966 was the first man to sail around the world single-handedly, making only one stop.

The list of top yachting names includes many Italians. It is, after all a premier race around their largest island. These include Navy Admiral Tino Straulino, Olympic gold medallist in the star class and Cino Ricci, well known yachting TV commentator. And it is also an Italian who in 1999 finally beat the course record set by Mistress Quickly in 1978. Top racing skipper Andrea Scarabelli beat it so resoundingly, he knocked off over six hours from the time that had stood unbeaten for 20 years.

World famous round the world race winners with a Middle Sea Race connection include yachting journalist Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Les Williams, both from the UK.

The Maxi Class has long had a long and loving relationship with the Middle Sea Race. Right from the early days personalities such as Germany's Herbert Von Karajan, famous orchestra conductor and artistic director of the Berliner Philarmoniker, competing with his maxi Helisara IV. Later came Marvin Greene Jr, CEO of Reeves Communications Corporation and owner of the well known Nirvana (line honours in 1982) and Jim Dolan, CEO of Cablevision, whose Sagamore was back in 1999 to try and emulate the line honours she won in 1997.


The course record was held by the San Francisco based, Robert McNeil on board his Maxi Turbo Sled Zephyrus IV when in 2000, he smashed the Course record which now stands at 64 hrs 49 mins 57 secs. Zephyrus IV is a Rechiel-Pugh design. In recent years, various maxis such as Alfa Romeo, Nokia, Maximus and Morning Glory have all tried to break this course record, but the wind Gods have never played along. Even the VOR winner, ABN AMro tried, but all failed in 2006.

However, George David came along on board Rambler in 2007 and demolished the course record established by Zephyrus IV in 2000. This now stands at 1 day, 23 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds.

At A Glance - Middle Sea Race 2024

First held: 1968

Organising Authority: Royal Malta Yacht Club


The 45th Rolex Middle Sea Race will start on Saturday, 19 October 2024.

Grand Harbour, Valletta: seven separate starts, at 10-minute intervals, from 11:00 CEST Saturday, 21 October 2024

Start Line: between the Saluting Battery, Upper Barrakka Gardens (Valletta) and Fort St Angelo (Birgu)

Various vantage points all around the Grand Harbour, high up on the bastions or at water level. Harbour access for spectator boats is restricted during the period of the start.


Set in the heart of the Mediterranean and is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. It starts and finishes in Malta, passes two active volcanoes and takes in the deep azure waters surrounding Sicily, and the Aeolian and Egadi Islands, as well as lonelier outposts of Pantelleria and Lampedusa, both closer to the African continent than Europe.

Length: 606 nautical miles (1,122km)

Outright Race Record: 33h 29m 28s, Argo, United States, Jason Carroll

Monohull Race Record: 40h 17m 50s, Comanche, Cayman Is, Mitch Booth

Main Trophies

Rolex Middle Sea Race Trophy – overall race winner under IRC Time Correction

Boccale de Mediterraneo – winner of ORC category

RLR Trophy – winner of monohull line honours

Captain Morgan Trophy – winner of multihull division on corrected time (MOCRA)

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