Record numbers take part in 97th the Liffey Swim

Hundreds braved the chilly waters as two Dublin swimmers take first place

Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

A record number of participants braved the chilly Liffey waters in Dublin city for the country’s largest open river swim on Saturday.

Now in its 97th year, the Dublin City Liffey Swim 2016 had two debutante winners as Brian Murray from the Eastern Bay club and Jennifer Gilbert representing Swim4Life emerged victorious in the men’s and women’s categories respectively.

More than 400 people took part in the 2.2km race- 267 men and 149 women- in warm, calm conditions, which were ideal for the gruelling task at hand.

The course runs from St James’s Gate to Custom House Quay, and swimmers are given staggered starting times so that the slowest qualifiers begin first.

Entrants must have swam in six open water qualifiers beforehand, which helps determine their handicap for the race.

Women’s winner Gilbert from Walkinstown managed to replicate the feat of her husband Donncha O’Siadhail who was a champion last year, and she was delighted to have done so.

“I can’t believe it, it’s amazing,” the 34-year-old said.

“I think I went out a bit too fast at the start and come the Ha’penny Bridge it was feeling tough, and when I came to O’Connell Bridge I knew there was only about 400 metres left so I gave it my all no matter how sick I felt.”

While the out flowing tide provided for a faster women’s race, the men had to contend with a tough current.

Murray (50), never looked like losing after pulling ahead past Capel St Bridge.

He might not live anywhere near the open water, but the Finglas man came away with the honours following a phenomenal second half of the race, which saw him pull 200 metres clear of his nearest competitor by the finish line.

“I feel very excited, elated, tired, worn out but fantastic,” Murray said, who is a previous third place finisher.

“It was going by the Halfpenny Bridge when I felt a bit tired, I just said to myself I’ve trained long enough for this, I’ve worked long enough for this, I’m going to push it through and I’m going to win,” he added, before praising the crowds of onlookers.

“It was incredible, the cheers were absolutely amazing. I was overawed.”

One man who is well accustomed to the Liffey waters is 59-year-old Jim Kavanagh, who is now in his fifth decade doing the swim after first entering as a 14 year-old alongside his father in the 1970s.

“I enjoyed it, it was a lovely swim. Nice conditions, the water was lovely and it was a nice day as well. You can hear the roar of the crowd, it’s great,” Kavanagh said.

“There was lots of numbers, it got a bit rough there going under O’Connell Bridge for a while- there was elbows and legs kicking away to beat the band.”

The Liffey Swim first started in 1920 and is arguably most famous for artist Jack B Yeats’ acclaimed depiction of the 1923 event.