A swimming instructor has become the first person to complete the gruelling open water swim from Ballycotton to Ardmore on the south east coast.
Carmel Collins, 36, from Mahon in Cork, battled heavy swells and strong currents to complete the arduous 25km-plus swim in 11 hours 37 minutes and 55 seconds.
She was recovering at home yesterday, nursing sore arms, after her marathon effort.
“I really didn’t know what I was getting myself in to,” Carmel admitted.
“I thought it would be flat and relatively calm. But it was very, very tough.”
Ms Collins, a swimming instructor at Mayfield Fitness Centre in Cork, and a member of the Cork Masters Swimming Club, set off from Ballycotton pier at 4am on Sunday.
Travelling on her support boat, skippered by Jack Hickey, were her daughter, Kayleigh, 16, channel swimming legend Imelda Lynch, fellow Ice Miler swimmer Anna Maria Mullally, Ann O’Connell, Noel Ruaney, Robert Scarrott, and Tadgh Harrington.
Ossie Schmidt joined the support team for the final mile or so to shore.
She set off across the vast expanse of Ballycotton Bay and swam around Capel Island and Knockadoon head into the rougher open seas of Youghal Bay.
“As I was passing Youghal, I felt like I was staying in the same spot for almost an hour,” Ms Collins said.
“I was giving it everything but I just wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t making any progress. I’d look up at the headland and could see the same spot, time and time again.
“I spoke to my support crew and I suggested I just swim in to Youghal.
“But they reminded me that I had warned them the day before not to let me give up. So I dug deep and just kept going, saying to myself, ‘just one more stroke, keep swimming, just one more stroke’.”
Kayleigh urged her to swim through the pain and Carmel said she finally managed to get the better of the strong ocean currents to make progress again.
She said she felt elated and a surge of energy as she rounded the headland for Ardmore where her father John, her brother David, his wife Sheila and their children, Anna and Ben, and others were standing on cliffs cheering her on.
“My dad had never seen me doing an open water swim before so when they waved, and shouted encouragement, I got excited and just kicked on, and made it.
“I remember seeing sand, and seeing the water get gradually shallower and knew I’d made it.”
She now plans to “take some time” before setting her next open water challenge.
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