from Ned Denison Executive Summary

Executive Summary


High Performance & World Record

The Big Events

International Marathon Success

Domestic Distance Swims

Your National Open Water Committee


Profile and Media Attention

Coming in 2010

Appendix – Goals


Executive Summary


In 2009 we had more races and more swimmers involved than ever before – with an excellent safety record.  Our success internationally was at record levels and Ireland sent its first two high performance open water swimmers to a major competition.

Local clubs are more numerous and stronger and there are many local “pods” growing towards club status.
Finally, the newly formed National Open Water Committee (NOWC) gives the sport a new focus and leverage – and gives you are say in the future growth of the sport in Ireland.



For Swim Ireland insured events, safety plans and debriefs were collected for the first time ever in 2009 to allow an analysis of all reported incidents.  This helps foster lessons learned and steadily evolves swim safety practices.

No serious injuries to swimmers, volunteers or spectators were recorded in the 2009 Swim Ireland insured events.


High Performance & World Record

For the first time ever, Swim Ireland entered swimmers in an open water international event.

The winners on the Lough Sheelin race were nominated by Ireland’s high performance coach, Peter Banks and endorsed by the National Open Water Committee (NOWC) to complete in the British Gas Great East Swim in England.  Chris Bryan and Rachel Lee (coached and managed in the event by Eilis Burns) started the process which hopefully will result in Irish participation in the 2012 Olympic open water races!

The trip was assisted by a stipend by the race organisers and the first ever open water swimming grant from the Irish Sports Council.


Nearly one thousand miles to the South, Colleen Mallon competed in the Dubai FINA event with the world’s top professional swimmers.


Guinness Book of World Records

A relay completed 685.5 km over a period of 232 hours, 52 minutes and 30 seconds to set a new record in Camlough.

This accomplishment has been nominated as one of the WORLD’S (!) top open water swims of 2009. Go to www.thewaterisopen.com(lower right corner) and show your support by placing a web vote.


The Big Events


Each year, there are famous, mass participation, open water races across the Island.  For many swimmers, participation in these events is the high point of their annual competitive (and social) calendar.  For very few, their names are engraved as winners on a big silver cup!

The 2009 and historical winners of these events are now on the Swim Ireland website for the first time:  https://www.swimireland.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=680&Itemid=199

Ireland’s largest open water league is centred around Dublin and their website give an excellent insight into the clubs, calendar and results:  https://www.swimleinster.com/opensea.htm

Corks’ growth in recent years is now being replicated in Galway and Limerick and future swims are being discussed for Waterford and the Lagan in Belfast.


International Marathon Success

Ireland’s swimmers hit the international circuit in 2009 and scored victories as never before.

Two swimmers completed the 20k Rottnest Race in Perth Australia in February:  Jennifer Hurley and John Conroy.

Twenty-one swimmers took part on the European Master Championships for open water and fifth places were delivered by Jane Jolly and Deirdre Kearney.

Five swimmers completed solo swims in the famous 26.4k Lake Zurich race:
Liz Buckley, Sylvain Estadieu, Eddie Irwin, Liam Maher and George Meehan.

In addition, two relay team were successful in Zurich:

Pairic Casey and Riana Parsons plus Nora Irwin, Jane McGrath and Catherine Walsh.


English Channel

Nearer to home, big successes took place across the English Channel.  At a distance of 21 miles the swim across the world’s busiest ferry and shipping lanes holds the same pedigree as Mount Everest for climbers.  However nearly three times as many have completed the climb versus the swim!  Ireland has a fast growing reputation for channel success and was the third most successful country (after GB and USA) in 2008.  2009 yielded ten successful solo swims – a record for Ireland: 

Diarmuid Boyle, Lisa Cummins, Sylvain Estadieu, Julieann Galloway, Charles Harper, Conor  Hartnett, Maureen McCoy, Owen O’Keefe, Chris O’Sullivan and Stephen Redmond.


In addition, five relay teams were successful:

IAA Sealions: James O’Keefe, Finbarr Hedderman, Peter Lynch. Billy Hann and Alan Thorpe

Poko’s Stag: Sean Mallon, Martin Mallon, Padraig Mallon, Myles McCourt, Aoife Lynch and Michael Lynch

ILIM Breac:   Aodhagan Byrne, Aoife Broderick, Alan Grace, Ian Murphy and David Jones #

ILIM Trosc: Glenn Treacy, Fergus Dowd, Catherine Fox, Eoin Keating and Ciara Gargan

ILIM Smugairle Róin: Catherine McLaughlin, Conor Murnane, Mary Ann Hernon, Andrew McClatchie, Colm O’Brien and Stephen Moffitt


New achievements entered the record books:

Lisa Cummins – the first Irish Swimmer to swim over AND BACK.  Her 35 hour journey has already inspired another swimmer for 2011 to go for the “double”.  She is nominated as WORLD’S (!) Open Water Woman of the Year.  Go to www.thewaterisopen.com (lower right corner) and show your support by placing a web vote.

Owen O’Keefe – the youngest Irish swimmer at 16 also recorded the fastest time, 10 hours and 19 minutes, by a citizen of the Republic.  Conor Gunn’s Irish record time of 9 hours and 11 minutes set in 1994 and Juliann Galloway’s time of 9 hours and 51 minutes set this year will provide a nice future challenge for all.

The Smugairle Róin relay won two awards at the 2009 Channel Swimming Association awards ceremony:  youngest and the fastest six person team in 2009.  They were only the second Irish team in 44 years to win the fastest award and the first Irish team to win the youngest.

All the solo and relays listings are now on the Swim Ireland website for the first time:  https://www.swimireland.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=680&Itemid=199


Domestic Distance Swims


The key to success of Ireland’s swimmers in the English Channel can be found here in Ireland as we host the world’s greatest series of distance events.  Below is just a sample:

The Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA) hosts the Lough Sheelin (5, 10 and 15k), Clew Bay 10k, Inisbofin 12k and Lough Erne 17k.

Galway Bay 13k

Cork to Cobh 16k and Loch Allua 8k

Cork Distance Camp, Champion of Champions and 6 hour swim:  150k over two weeks

Other swimmers completed “first ever” marathon swims:  Owen O’Keefe – Cork to Myrtleville 25k and Stephen Redmond – Fastnet to Schull 20k.


Your National Open Water Committee

A National Open Water Committee (NOWC) was first established in January 2009 following an application/nomination process by each of the four provinces and two leading clubs outside of Leinster. The Committee currently has eight members with three named positions; Chairperson (Ned Denison – from Munster), Secretary/Communications (Martin Cullen – from Ulster) and Safety Officer (Trevor Wood – from the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association).

The rest of the committee is as follows assisted by Chantal Gibney of Swim Ireland:   Connaught – Ronan Colljns; Leinster Open Sea Committee – Paul Wynne, Eoin Gaffney and Anne McAdam (replacing Jane Reid) and Cork Master Swim Club – Joe Donnelly.

A series of meetings of the NOWC and correspondence has resulted in a draft open water development plan with 23 stated goals and the following vision:

Swim Ireland aims to increase the safe and inclusive participation of open water swimming in Ireland as well as see Irish Swimmers compete in Open Water Swimming at International level, including the Olympic Games.
While the goals have not yet been reviewed and endorsed by the Board of Swim Ireland, you can see the goals (at the bottom of this report) and follow the NOWC’s success in the first year against the goals.  

Feed back ideas and comments to your representatives AND PLEASE VOLUNTEER your time and ideas on how to help deliver on the 23 goals.



Open water swimming stepped even further forward with these technology firsts in 2009:

The Liffey Swim benefited from the first overhead finishing gantry.  This gave easy timing (wrist timing chips) and provided a safer finish.

The ILDSA started using Facebook to help communicate with their members.

Four Google Groups now provide information repositories and mass email distribution:  Sandycove Island (Kinsale) – more than 300 members, Irish Marathon Swimmers – more than 150 members and new groups for Waterford and Galway.

While swimmers had previously used blogs, they are now increasingly being tied to handheld email devices.  For the followers of English Channel swims – you can now watch the boats position via AIS at 3am and catch snippets from the boat crew on the web.


Profile and Media Attention


2009 must surely have been the best year ever for profile and media coverage of open water swimming in Ireland.  Just a few of the highlights without giving any names:

Two swimmers on The Late Late

Extensive print and radio coverage of races, Camlough and the marathon swimmers – one swimmer even selected to turn on the local “Christmas lights”!

RTE Radio 1 – Liffey coverage and tribute to the official handicapper after 25 years

Major increase in the materials of the Swim Ireland web site and ezine

Excellent coverage on the Women in Sports website

Setanta Sports


Coming in 2010

2010 will see more races and more swimmers than ever before – we’ll announce the schedule in the next Swim Ireland ezine – or in February go to:


A record 13 swimmers have gone public having booked pilots for a solo English Channel swim in 2010.  There are a few others keeping it private and two relay teams.  See details on:


Hint – if you fancy moving up to the distance events, start training now and apply very early for the domestic events.  For swims like the Channel it is often mandatory to book a pilot at least 18 months in advance.  The NOWC is running a national seminar series on marathon swimming – a great way to learn the basics in two hours.

And – we plan to take the Irish representation in International high performance events to the next level.  The clock is ticking down to the London games!

If you just want to get started contact the club or “pod” nearest to you – see:


There is lot’s of great open water to be swum in Ireland – we’ll see you in 2010 and swim safe.


Ned Denison (for the National Open Water Committee) 

Appendix – Goals 





Owns the Goal

Initial Progress 2009

Completion Date


Increase swim safety through formal event management:  safety plans and debriefs filed centrally for all SI insured events

All plans received 2 weeks before the event and debriefs less than 2 weeks after the event

Trevor Wood

First central collection completed in 2009

Ongoing and reported annually in October


Centrally measure event safety and drive improvements:  annual trend analysis and safety standards evolved

NOWC safety officer to issue a report:  analysis of incidents, trend analysis and recommendations

Trevor Wood

First central analysis and recommendations completed in October 2009

Annually in October


Establish a key participation metric:  current SI club activity in open water.  This can then be used in future to encourage more club open water participation.

Inventory of all current SI clubs to determine their open water involvements:  example number of events and approximate number of open water practices



Annually starting in May 2010


Help create and then evolve "pods" of open water swimmers into clubs over time

Creation of two masters programs per year from open water pods.

Ned Denison

List of local "pods" created 

Annual measurement starting end 2010


Establish a key participation metric: SI membership involvement in open water.

SI to modify membership forms to be inclusive of all disciplines and then inventory SI member involvement in open water swimming and drive an annual increase of at least 250/year



Annually starting in May 2010


Devise a mechanism to drive a fast and major increase in new SI members involved in open water swimming

SI to approve the trial of a "one-day" membership in selected locations (it may start outside of the strong Leinster open sea program).  This has been a major success in driving the annual increases in Triathlon Ireland. 


NOWC did lite research with Show Jumping and Mountaineering and extensive research with Triathlon Ireland and agreed the trial in Q1 2009.  SI office has prepared a proposal for the Board.

Approval by March 2010 and report to SI annually starting in November 2010


Increase participation by swimmers with disabilities

Profile open water swimmers with disabilities as a start (examples: James Pittar – unsighted and Dave Malone – physical issues)

Martin Cullen


Two profiles on the SI web site by end March 2010 and one added annually starting in March 2011


Place competitive Irish swimmers in international events

Work with the High Performance Director to assemble a 25 strong panel of open water swimmers for future evaluation, training and selection for international competition

Peter Banks and Paul Wynne

A measured (and non-current/non-tidal) 5 and 10k event was held for the second year in Lough Sheelin in May 2009.  Two Irish swimmers represented the country in the Great Eastern swim in UK in September.

Measure annually in October


Increase the chances of placing Irish swimmers in the London games

Research all elements necessary to compete successfully internationally – from training to accredited officials.  Out of this will come a plan.

Peter Banks and Paul Wynne

The UK open water director came to Dublin to start the process of education this summer

Plan by May 2010 and then measured and revised annually starting in October 2011


Change the mentality of all involved in SI to add open water "facilities" to the list of available training and competition pools.

Expand the list of SI insured events annually and increase the number of "pods" and clubs with open water involvement (as noted above)  Ensure required equipment for National Open Water Races is captured in Capital Grant Application (if appropriate) 

Ned Denison

First national open water swim calendar added to SI website in Q1 2009.  This included 4 new events.

Annual measurement starting end 2010


Produce available materials on open water swimming safety and techniques

Publish materials on open water swimming safety and techniques published on the SI web site

Anne McAdam/Trevor Wood/NOWC


Review and revise annually in May


Demystify long distance open water swimming and educate potential participants

Expand the long distance seminars held in Cork in 2007 and 2008 to other locations.  Goal to "touch" more than 400 swimmers by 2012

Ned Denison

In 2009, the following seminars have been held:  Cork City – 3 seminars (65 participants), Killarney (53 participants), SI HQ (23 participants), Waterford (32 participants).Schull (38 participants) and Drogeda (35 participants).

Review and schedule new seminars quarterly


Make the SI web site for open water swimming:  active, full and vibrant

Add new material at least quarterly

SI, Martin Cullen and Ned Denison

Tremendous expansion of open water "tabs" and materials

Review and add materials quarterly


Add open water swim results to the SI website

Add historical and current results for major events

Ned Denison

Added historic results to the SI website for major Swims and solo and relay swims across the English and North Channels.  All to be available by 15 December

Add historic result for 5 more major events by October 2010 and add annual report for Liffey, Lee and Sandycove at a minimum annually starting in October 2010


Profile high achievement open water swimmers (examples:  English and North Channels, International Competitions, etc.)

Update the English Channel profile booklet (add to SI web site) and add at least 3 other profiles annually

Martin Cullen 

A few press releases on English Channel swimmers were added to the SI website

March 2010 and then annually starting in March 2011


Increase awareness by issuing more/better press releases to increase media coverage

Train and encourage event organisers to issue press releases and submit materials for the SI website

Martin Cullen 

The most media coverage involved Lisa Cummins (2 way channel), Camlough (Guinness Book of Records relay), Liffey, Lee and Owen O’Keefe (youngest Irish channel swimmer)

50 new pages of material published annually on the SI website – annually by October.  Annual recognition by the SI media liaison that open water swimming generates more positive media coverage than all other SI disciplines bar Olympic and World Championship coverage.


Start a program of written recognition for major open water swimming achievements

Develop criteria to drive the issuance of congratulatory letters to high achievement open water swimmers (examples:  English and North Channels, International Competitions, etc.) 

Martin Cullen 


First letters to be issued by end July 2010 and then as appropriate


Negotiate and secure SI sponsorships unique to open water swimming

Negotiate and secure the first sponsorship – Swimtrek is the target

Ned Denison to prepare sponsors and SI to secure formal internal approvals

The NOWC has reached a non-binding verbal basis with Swimtrek and SI will present the proposal to the board.

First sponsorship by end 2009 and the second by end 2010


Improve synergies with other SI disciplines

Improve communication with other SI disciplines as many water polo players and master swimmer (in particular) participate in open water swimming.  Recruitment opportunities with competitive pool swimming can also be jointly developed.

Anne McAdam


At least 4 meetings per year (starting 2010) with other disciplines to communicate and explore joint initiatives


Communicate widely

Ensure that the open water section of the SI website is more complete than the other disciplines.
Ensure that open water press coverage exceeds all discipline – with the exception of pool international championships.
Ensure email communication to all open water swimmers at least twice per year.

Martin Cullen and Ned Denison

The SI web site has become much more valuable for schedules and results, Open water has been in 2 SI ezines, two large Google Groups are in operation (Sandycove Island 310 members and Irish Marathon Swimming 163 members) and a NOWC mass email has been sent. Several channel swimmers made extensive use of blogs and twitter to keep their friends, charities and greater public informed. 

Expand the communications on all these fronts and take advantage of new technologies as they arise.  Measure (informally) and report to the NOWC committee annually in October


Confirm the future composition of the NOWC and push for more elections (versus SI appointments) of members" 

Study the other disciplines, review what worked/didn’t work about the present NOWC and create and drive a proposal.

Paul Wynne


End 2010 for the agreed plan and end 2011 for new committee


Ensure the appropriate level of awareness for child welfare in open water swimming

All NOWC members to have attended Child Protection in Sport Awareness Workshop (4hrs)  Explore the new and different safety issues that this discipline represents for children and set parental, pod, club and event guidelines

Eoin Gaffney


NOWC Workshop attendance by end 2010. First plan by May 2010 and then measure and revise annually starting in October 2011


Motivate female swimmers to increase profiles for the Women in Sport website and supply pictures for the calendar.

Add 3 profiles/year and be represented in the calendar at least every other year.

Ned Denison

Open water swimming has profiles already in place and has been represented by 2 pictures in previous calendars.  Seven women have been invited, in October 2009, for profiles and at least one potential picture is under consideration.

Review annually in February