Swim team reaches end of journey
The Round Ireland Swim team will complete their arduous journey of more that 830 miles around the Irish coastline later today.
The team of six relay swimmers set off from Carrickfinn beach in northwest Donegal on Sunday, July 2nd and are expected to reach that shoreline once again around 7pm this evening.
Originally, they had hoped to do the swim in about four weeks - they had planned to be back at Carrickfinn on Sunday, July 30th - but a combination of bad weather, unfavourable winds and fatigue meant that their attempt to become the first people to swim around Ireland was prolonged.
It has now emerged that the additional costs incurred during the eight weeks have meant that the expedition is in the red, prompting fresh appeals for donations.
However, expedition leader Henry O'Donnell is delighted with what they have achieved and paid tribute to "a huge team effort".
Over 50 people were involved directly with the expedition with another 100 indirectly involved in the massive undertaking which had rescue and support vessels at sea plus a land operations' team.
Mr O'Donnell said: "The reality is that nature dictates things. It was a test of human endurance. We got off to a very difficult start and getting around Malin Head was the first major obstacle. It was then very tough going through the North Channel - where all the team got stung by jellyfish - and even the north Irish Sea was difficult as we were up against southerly winds."
Other memorable and equally difficult stretches included going past Carnsore Point, the Blasket Islands and through Achill Sound, which was "just unreal".
But the fact that they survived many demanding days - often swimming up to 20 miles - was due largely to their intense preparations.
The swimmers - Henry, Anne Marie and Ryan Ward from Donegal, Tom Watters from Galway, Nuala Moore from Kerry and Ian Claxton from Dublin - had been training for up to 18 months.
Although the swim was done in relay fashion, the testing conditions off the Irish coast soon took their toll.
"At the start I had made it compulsory that there would be one day's rest for the team," Mr O'Donnell recalled. "But we soon had to increase that to two days."
As well as raising funds for the RNLI crew-training fund, the expedition also carried out research, in collaboration with the Marine Institute, into water quality, the psychological effect of the swim on the swimmers, and a study of micro-climatic conditions.
More information on the expedition can be obtained on www.roundirelandswim.ie