By Stephen J. Thomas
DOVER, England, July 18. A little open water history was made the weekend of July 9-10 when five Irish relay teams completed the return crossing of the English Channel. Departing at midday on Saturday the swimmers, aged from 13 to 59, entered the water just south of Dover harbor and returned on Sunday evening completing the ‘double’ in times ranging from 26 to 33 hours after swimming some 70 miles.
In terms of Channel records, it was the first time any country had so many swimmers in the water and to have five teams achieve successful crossings at the same time. Other achievements included the first successful Irish women's relay team, the youngest Irish relay swimmer, 13-year-old Lucy Nilsson Cullen, and the first Irish father and daughter, Lucy and Martin Cullen.
Most of the swimmers had never attempted anything of this magnitude and the weather conditions were not sympathetic although the water temperature was 60 degrees. One of the participants, Martin Cullen, described his meeting with the French coast as, “particularly daunting and dark, large waves, rocks, cliffs and blind faith!”
Two Irishmen followed with successful solo single crossings, Diarmuid O’Brien, from Cork in 15 hours and 21 minutes and Ronan Joyce in 12 hours 54 minutes.