Stormy seas, rough weather and stinging jellyfish will be the main challenges confronting two swimmers who aim to become the first to circumnavigate the entire island of Ireland this summer.
David Burns from Coleraine and Maghnus Collins from Limerick are seasoned adventurers having kayaked the Yangtze river, ran across the Sahara desert and cycled from Cape Town to Ireland in recent years.
The pair set off from Coliemore Harbour in Dalkey earlier on Wednesday for the first 20km stretch of a gruelling itinerary which will see them swim 1,600km clockwise around the south coast, up the west and past the north before finishing back in Dublin in around four months’ time.
Despite their significant endurance tests of recent years, they are of the firm belief that this latest task will provide the greatest obstacle so far.
“We’ve done things that would have been considered more dangerous, for want of a better word, but in terms of the physical nature of this nothing compares to it,” said Mr Burns, adding that he and his swim-mate will have to consume between six and seven thousand calories per day in order to avert the threat of “hyper weight loss”.
The team chose to set off on Wednesday due to the warming Atlantic waters. Although sea temperatures remain fairly frigid after a cold May, this has the consequent positive effect of warding off some unwelcome potential visitors.
“The warmer weather brings in jellyfish quicker so they’re going to be a bit of a hindrance. It’s not a big one either but we’re covered head to toe in wetsuits to help us with that.
“They’ll probably get our face at some points . . . it will be irritating, but if jellyfish are our biggest concern, we’ll be happy,” said Mr Burns.
They will be aiming to swim for up to 12 hours in any given 24-hour period, and may find themselves up to 20km off-land when tackling the waters of the rugged west coast.
Sponsored by Costcutters, they will be raising funds for RNLI Lifeboats and Gorta Self Help Africa, and will have support teams on land and water to help with their journey.
David Burns’ mother Heather has been encouraging his adventuring exploits since an early age. She will be visiting the team at various stop-off points around Ireland, but remains anxious as they embark on their adventure.
“I’m excited now but I have had some sleepless nights . . . I’ve seen them doing many more isolated adventures. They are nearer now so it seems less scary for me as a parent.
“I’m kind of on a need-to-know basis so I wouldn’t always know exactly what is happening. It’s too far down the line to try and talk them out of it anyway, you wouldn’t have a chance. They’re very committed,” she said.