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200 Sea Swimmers Take to Belfast Lough from Ballyholme Yacht Club Slipway

1st September 2021
Ballyholme's Big Swim
Ballyholme's Big Swim

Nearly 200 swimmers took to the waters of Ballyholme Bay on Belfast Lough in perfect weather on Saturday 28th August, marking the culmination of a very successful season of regular Monday night swims off the Club slipway.

Of the huge crowd, 50 were from the club and the rest were enthusiastic members of the public. The club, which has seen a massive increase in members who are keen to get involved in open water sea swimming over recent years, welcomed both members and visitors of all swimming abilities to this successful event which included 5k, 1500m, and 750m swims.

The swimmers were kept safe by kayaks, paddleboards and safety boats.

Open water swimming has been for a long time one of the many activities offered by BYC, and while this big event was the highlight of the season, the regular Monday night outings (which are for members only) will end next week. But given favourable weather and tides during the winter months, there may be the opportunity to run more organised swims.

Club Commodore Aidan Pounder explained: "Open water sea swimming has become very much a fixture at Ballyholme Yacht Club (BYC) over the last two years, so I was delighted we were able to organise this event, particularly when we realised the level of interest from the outset with in excess of 200 competitors signing up within 10 days of registration opening. The atmosphere was fantastic with huge support from the members and visitors alike. Inglorious sunshine, our swimmers enjoyed excellent sea conditions in Ballyholme Bay as spectators watched from the Seacliffe Road and Ballyholme Promenade, cheering from the shore. Special thanks must also go to our event sponsor, Mr Ryan Smith of Dunluce Health Care."

Jessika Robson first Female 5k, with left Ryan Smith of sponsors Dunluce Healthcare and Alan Whyte Club CaptainJessika Robson first Female 5k, with left Ryan Smith of sponsors Dunluce Healthcare and Alan Whyte Club Captain

Club Captain Alan Whyte has been instrumental in the organisation and successful delivery of swimming at the Club with his team and this weekend was no different. Alan added: "We have been running Open Water Swims on a Monday night for some time at the club, but it was great to be able to organise this event, not just for our members, but for the wider sea-swimming community in the local area and further afield. I have already been contacted by so many people who took part saying how much they enjoyed the day and asking me when the next swim will be, which goes to show just how much of an appetite there is for events like this. We plan to build on the success of Saturday's event and are now hoping to organise two more events in the coming year.

Safety craft at Ballyholme Big SwimSafety craft at Ballyholme Big Swim

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the team of volunteers who were instrumental in ensuring this event ran smoothly, both on the water and onshore. We couldn't do it without them".

One of the swimmers was Melanie Qutteineh, who is swimming the North Channel between County Down and the Scottish coast as part of a relay team from Ballyholme Yacht Club, took part in Saturday's event. She said: "We have been attending the club's Open Water swim sessions as part of our training, but it was great to get the opportunity to join so many other swimmers at the 'B Y Sea' at the weekend too. It was lovely to see so many swimmers in the water, from beginners to elite, all enjoying the events, and all being welcomed by the team at BYC."

And Carol Douglas, who took part a few months after a knee replacement, said it was great to get the chance to take part. Carol swam the 750m event. She explained: "Although I enjoy a 'dip' in the sea, I decided to take part in this event to really challenge myself. I was really nervous, but everyone was so welcoming, it was great".

As part of expanding the range of activities offered at BYC, the club hosting the Open Ulster Windsurfing Championships in late autumn for the first time, another new aspect to Club activity.

Prizewinners were Jessika Robson and Samuel Wright – 1st Male and Female in the 5k. 1500m - Anna McKee and Gary Robinson and for the 750m - Catherine Markwell and Jonny Morrison

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

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Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

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