By Eoin English
A man who embarked on a risky Cork Harbour swimming stunt in his underwear for a bet ignored requests to stop, wasted emergency service time, and delayed the passage of two ships.
It is believed the man was challenged by friends to complete the 3km swim across the busy shipping channel between Cobh and Spike Island and back.
The RNLI said he was lucky not to have become another drowning statistic.
The alarm was raised at 5.30pm on Monday. The crew of a Cork Harbour pilot boat asked him to get out of the water amid concerns the Irish Naval Service vessel, the LÉ Orla, which was being flanked by a tug, were bearing down on him. He insisted on continuing, saying he was doing it for a €200 bet.
The Crosshaven lifeboat crew was tasked. The LÉ Orla and the Crosshaven Coast Guard unit also deployed ribs to the scene.
They all stood by until the man exited the water at Cobh and rejoined his friends. Gardaí were alerted but they had not arrived by the time the man returned to the quayside around 6.40pm.
The water temperature was just 14C. Swimming in cold water, especially after the consumption of alcohol, increases the risk of cardiac arrest.
Lifeboat launching authority Hugh Mockler said open-water swimmers should have a safety boat with them.
“Going out alone and across shipping channels is very dangerous and the currents off Cobh are very strong,” he said. “This man was extremely lucky he did not become a statistic.”
This article first appeared in today's Irish Examiner.