Keating leads Irish Sea charity swim

 

Singer Ronan Keating took the plunge into the Irish Sea at Holyhead last night at the start of a charity swim from the UK to Ireland.

Singer Ronan Keating took the plunge into the Irish Sea at Holyhead last night at the start of a charity swim from the UK to Ireland.

The relay for Cancer Research UK will see five celebrities swim 56 nautical miles (120km) from Holyhead, in Anglesey, North Wales, to Dublin. They are hoping to raise £1 million.

Keating (34), was first off the slipway in his wet suit and flippers at around 9pm last night, followed by TV presenter Jenny Frost, who then handed over to Strictly star Pamela Stephenson.

Gadget Show host Jason Bradbury and Olympic medallist swimmer Steve Parry are also taking part.

The team, supported by five ‘super swimmers’, had been due to set off at lunchtime today, but favourable weather led organisers to bring the event forward by 15 hours.

As darkness fell last night, hundreds of people clapped and cheered at the little harbour at Holyhead Sailing Club as Keating made the sign of the cross and took his first step into the water.

The pop star had earlier braved a smile and a wave to fans before he hugged wife, Yvonne, goodbye on the slipway and got some last minute advice from swim organiser Simon Murie.

Once at sea, each of the 10 participants will take turns swimming for one hour until the arduous task is complete after an estimated 40 hours. As well as swimming long hours through the night in darkness, they will also have to dodge wind farms and cope with tidal variations which mean the swimmers could end up covering a distance of up to 70 nautical miles (131km).

Speaking during a break, Keating said he was mostly spending his hour-long stints swallowing sea water and avoiding “alien-like” jellyfish.

“I’m not one of the advanced swimmers so I’m concentrating on my swimming, my breathing and keeping my body moving,” he added. “We were warned about the Lion’s Mane jellyfish but there are hundreds and it’s frightening when they are right there sitting in front of you.

“You gasp and lose your breath but you’ve just got to keep moving. Thank God we haven’t seen any sharks, I’m very happy about that.”

Keating  came up with the idea with Sir Richard Branson, who was also due to take part in the relay but pulled out at the weekend after his Caribbean home on Necker Island burned to the ground.

All the celebrity swimmers taking part have loved ones who have had cancer.

Keating, Frost and Stephenson lost their mothers to the disease and Bradbury’s brother was diagnosed with skin cancer earlier this year. Parry found out he had testicular cancer 18 months ago, three weeks after getting married.

To follow the progress of the swim, visit the-swim.co.uk