WHILE you’re trying to get out bed for work this Tuesday morning (July 10), spare a thought for Fergal Somerville who will be attempting to get from Northern Ireland to Scotland - by swimming.
At 6.40am, weather permitting, the Beaumont native will set out from Donaghadee harbour in County Down and head for Portpatrick on the coast of Scotland.
Fergal, who swam the English Channel in 2011 and from Inis Meain (one of the Aran Islands) to Rossaveal (Galway) in 2010, is aiming to become one of a small group of people to complete the North Channel Swim.
The 33km swim could take anything from 14 to 17 hours. The two biggest obstacles in Fergal’s way could be the water temperature and jellyfish.
“The North Channel Swim is rightly viewed as the most difficult of the channel swims,” Fergal told Northside People.
“The reason not as many people attempt it is because it can be three degrees colder than the English Channel, rougher and more tidal.
“It is also populated by jellyfish. You can go through them and get stung or go around them but then you run the risk of being knocked off course by the tides.
“If I come up against them I will probably swim through them. It’s one of my fears about taking on the challenge.”
Fergal, who has been sea swimming for five years and distance swimming for four years, has understandably been training hard in advance of his mammoth challenge.
His regime is enough to make the more sedentary amongst us wince. He gets up at 6am Monday to Friday and heads for the pool at DCU. At weekends there’s no let up as he makes his way to Malahide for more intensive open swim training.
This year alone the 48-year-old father-of-two has swam over 660km, and in the last two and a half years, 2,500km.
When Fergal completed the English Channel swim last September in 12 hours and 40 minutes, he raised €18,500 for Cystic Fibrosis research at Beaumont Hospital.
He also raised €7,500 the previous year for the Aran Island Lifeboat on Inis Mór.
Every cent raised from the North Channel Swim will go to the Aislinn Adolescent Addiction Service, which provides quality residential and ongoing treatment for persons aged 15-21 years.
“I am delighted to support Aislinn, a non-profit organisation making a huge difference to young adults and their families through dedicated care and support,” says Fergal who will be accompanied on his latest adventure by his wife Margaret and two sons Eoin and Conor.
They will be on board the support boat, which was the case with the English Channel Swim. Mick Gartland will once again be in charge of the support team.
“The family think I’m mad,” jokes Fergal. “I’ve always had this swim in the back of my mind and now I’m ready to take it on.”
Fergal concedes that he didn’t enjoy the English Channel Swim because he feared he wouldn’t complete it.
If he can steer clear of the jellyfish and cope with the cold waters, he might just enjoy this challenge a bit more!