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  • Northside East

Record-breaking swimmers on crest of a wave

Sunday, 11th August, 2019 3:00pm
Record-breaking swimmers on crest of a wave

Ronan Joyce pictured during his swim from Northern Ireland to Scotland.

Record-breaking swimmers on crest of a wave

Ronan Joyce pictured during his swim from Northern Ireland to Scotland.

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THREE local amateur swimmers are on the crest of a wave after smashing a world record. 

Ocean Breakers, comprising Rachael Lee, Tom Healy and Ronan Joyce – swam the North Channel in a three-person relay in nine hours and 40 minutes, beating the previous record by 38 minutes. 

 The North Dubliners broke the world record, when swimming from Donaghadee, County Down, to Portpatrick in Scotland.

Known to be the most difficult open water swim in the world, the North Channel is 34.5km of the most hostile, erratic and cold waters in the Irish Sea. 

The previous record of 10 hours and 18 minutes had been set in 2012 by a one-way, three-person-relay team from the USA called The Machine Men. 

The record attempt has been independently sanctioned and certified by the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA) - a North Channel Swim will only be recognised when the start and finish is within the area defined by the UK Hydrographic Office Admiralty Chart 2198 North Channel Southern Part, no other route or course is recognised as a North Channel Swim.

While the English Channel is deemed by many to be the Everest of open water swimming, the North Channel is considered much tougher due to the colder air and water temperatures, stronger currents (which usually add on another 10km to the swim) and inhospitable sea life.

It’s plagued by thousands of Lion’s Mane jellyfish, basking sharks, dolphins, Minke whales - and a resident pod of killer whales off the west coast of Scotland that have swam alongside some swimmers on previous crossings. 

The swimmers are not allowed to wear wetsuits and swam in just their togs and swimming caps.

Speaking after the crossing, Rachael, from Malahide, said: “Although we are already seasoned sea swimmers and have been training hard, this was a whole different ball game and took us to the absolute brink of our capabilities, both mentally and physically. 

Rachael’s husband Tom said: “Even by our standards it was unbelievably dangerous endurance swimming at the very edge of human limits which is why we did it as a relay team.

“No matter how hard it got, there was absolutely no way any of us were going to give up on each other because we were in it together come hell or high water!”

In 2016 Rachael made history by becoming the fastest Irish person ever to swim the English Channel solo (male or female), an unbroken record to this day.

Ocean Breakers aren’t professional swimmers and just swim for the love of it. Tom and Rachael are fulltime fire-fighters and busy parents to six-year old twins Bruce and Lex; and Ronan, who is married to Ann Marie, is a full-time IT professional and dad to eight-year-old twins Anna and Rian.

Ronan Joyce, Rachael Lee and Tom Healy broke the world record by an impressive 38 minutes.

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