North Channel 2010 – Annemarie Ward – Ireland to Scotland

Here’s another fantastic guest post from Nuala Moore detailing the saga of Annemarie Ward and her North Channel swims. Great job, Nuala (and Annmarie)!

The North Channel is the 35K stretch of water between Northern Ireland and Scotland.  In history, only 9 swimmers have ever accomplished this channel crossing. The first successful crossing was in 1947.

As challenges go, it is a body of water that requires the utmost of respect. Above both the countries we have thousands of miles of sea, all raging and wanting to run south and north. When this water tries to squeeze between the 2 countries, the space being so small forces that water to act very erratically. As the water runs through islands and in and out of headlands and bays, it goes every direction. Therefore, to a swimmer, there is no definite system of movement.

The tides running through Rathlin Island work on nine hours and not the usual six. The erratic nature of these flows is why this stretch of water is the most respected. Add to this the fact that the water temperature is only 12 degrees C (late 50’s in F).

There are those older than us who would be happy if we let this water be. But there are the heroes within our group who decide to battle. Annemarie Ward is such.

Difficulty and challenge is not something that she recognises. She sees arm over arm and most importantly has the most highest level of trust in the crew who this year have assembled around her. During our relay around the Ireland in 06, this group spent years with us in preparation. They worked with swimmers at the lowest ebb of energy, and they pushed us when we were going backwards. Their own personal knowledge of the sea and it’s movements make them the best possible crew to make this happen.  

As a team they travelled a few times to the North Channel to swim before the attempt. They studied its form, watched the water, and felt its heartbeat. It is very important to know the agressor.  

One day a few weeks ago, they popped Annemarie in the water ten miles from shore. She swam solid for 2.5 hours in the north eastern flow. It was a super successful swim for the crew. Despite rotating her arms for two and half hours, she was in the same place as they started. It was a successful day for the crew because they understood the timing when the flow may not be crossed.

In 2008 Annemarie took her first outing. The weather changes quickly in September, and after 17.5 hours swimming in the North Channel – despite being close to Scotland – the crew made the heartbreaking decision to take her from the water.  Her body was being turned back to Ireland. She was fine physically, but would the next two hours hurt her more?

In 2009 Annemarie went back again, and this time the weather and a few decisions forced her out of the water after 2 hours.

Last Tuesday night, Aug 3rd, Annemarie got into the water off Gobbins Island at 10:15pm (the water is calmer at night). She was accompanied with a hardboat and 2 RIBs with Brendan Proctor and Derek, the 2 main marine coordinators. Also along were Team Delta – four guys Ivan, Gus, Joe and Eoin – as well as Noel who trained with her all winter.

The first hour she encountered many jellyfish, taking the stings as she kept moving. The third hour she took in some painkillers in the hope of easing the pain, more devasted that the progress was being hampered. Pain over Progress?  The plan was so accurate that the jellyfish were the only negative.

The water was welcoming and calm. The crews despite the darkness were able to identify the blooms, trying to alert her about going right or left.  But despite these efforts, the crew had to stand by and watch as more and more stings covered her.

Over the five hours Annemarie hands and legs swelled up and her joints locked. Her leg kick slowed as her ankles and knees seized up. Her mouth was covered in stings. At five hours she made the call herself and knew that it was over. For precaution, she was admitted to hospital. All is well, a few tingles remain, but the team is back in planning.

It is so heroic that a swimmer, despite all the pain, can think only about letting the crew down – and how the crews can be so disappointed about letting the swimmer down. Life is so amazing, and being part of these experiences makes life so much more special.

The work is done, and the North Channel still waits. Hopefully in the coming weeks…

From a personal point Annemarie is one of the funniest and most gracious swimmers. The moment she puts her face in the water, it is for all the right reasons. She is completely at one there.

Open water swimmers are very, very special.

Open water adventures in South West Ireland

This is a guest post from Nuala Moore, a veteran open water swimmer and event organizer who hails from SW Ireland. In addition to many other swimming feats, Nuala was part of a relay team that swam around Ireland (830 miles – no wetsuits) over 56 days. She’ll also be making a local appearance next month during her 6th Chicago Triathlon. Welcome Nuala!


My name is Nuala Moore, and I am an open water swimmer living in the SW of Ireland. We are surrounded by amazing beaches, and the water flowing through our islands is the fastest and the freshest in spirit that you can swim in.

The water temperatures vary from early 40’s to 60’s (Fahrenheit). A huge variable is the air temperature. We rarely get above 70 so that means that the air is whipping the heat from our bodies quickly.

I am a super fan of deep water swimming and love the jaunt away from the shore. One of the biggest challenges that swimmers face here is that of the power of the water. Sometimes you wish to swim one way but it may not be possible. So we time our swims with the tide.

Anxiety and stress can often be the main reason that swimmers don’t finish. I try to work with that. We really have to learn to trust the boat crews. Their job is soley to mind us, and actually handing that trust can be a huge issue.

This weekend we have a 6km swim and a 3km swim in a beautiful bay of Ballydavid. It is called The Massacre after the 1580 battle in Smerwick harbour. We swim to the base of the monument. -Dramatic name!!

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We also have a regatta to contend with, so it’s limited to 30 swimmers. Due to the tidal flow and emptying of the bay, we swim in a direction south of our destination; and the tide leaving the bay will usually bring us to where we need to go. The tide should be turning to get us home the other 3km.

You could end up swimming 2km longer just by getting this line wrong. How bays empty and fill is so important to know and to study for safety reasons. Also, it’s essential to have swimmers who can adjust their plans as well and not get stressed when they see themselves heading somewhere else.

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Challenges differ in all waters, but overall I love the open ocean. It is so rewarding seeing swimmers battle and get there. I am a fan of getting swimmers to regroup and swim in a pod. It is very responsible and gives the surge of confidence and energy to drive on. We always have BBQ and a hot chocolate afterwards – super to share the experiences.

I also host swims of 2km/3km and 5km. I think once you’re wet and you have no plans for the afternoon, we may as well forge away.

Swimming is such a liberation of mind and soul. All the voices in your head are quelled by your own bubbles.

Here’s hoping for a super Massacre and the hope that Mother Nature looks kindly on us! All my swims are charity based, and we are all winners.

Swim Safely,