Cork woman Eilis Burns leads home field in gruelling Spain test

Cork woman Eilis Burns was the first finisher in one of Europe’s most difficult swimming events.

Cork woman Eilis Burns leads home field in gruelling Spain test

“Conditions were absolutely horrendous, the current was against us for the whole swim,” said Burns of the 22km route between the Illes Formuge and Illes Medes off the Spanish coast.

An estimated 40 swimmers, including 16 from Ireland, attempted the ‘Neda el Món’ race. Incredibly only five, led home by Burns, reached the destination with the last competitor spending 14 hours in the water.

Burns said: “It was actually dangerous for the last guy, there were no lights on the boat and we had to use the lights on our phones to guide him in.”

The swim in Spain started at sunrise on Sunday and Burns immediately noticed the strength of the current they were facing. “We’d assumed it [the current] would turn – our group are hardy swimmers – but the current was horrific and the wind was horrific. The 8km mark was the toughest, we got stuck in a current that took a while to get out of, but I got clear of it along with a couple of others.”

She finished the swim in nine and a half hours. “I was the first woman to finish, the first Irish person to finish and the first to finish altogether.”

The third swimmer to finish was also Irish, though based in the UK. Rory Fitzgerald was the first swimmer to finish without a wetsuit, coming in about an hour after Burns.

At the time when Fitzgerald finished, only two Irish swimmers were still in the water but they subsequently withdrew when they realised they would not finish before dark.

Burns said: “There were lots of jellyfish stings and the swell started to get bigger after I finished.”

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