Alliance Councillors Gavin Walker and Andrew Muir were pleased with the recent decision of the Development Committee to support their Motion requiring the Council to acknowledge the importance of the North Channel Swim.
The challenge and history of the North Channel Swim from here to the Mull of Galloway – the world’s most difficult channel swim – is finally to be acknowledged and celebrated with information boards in Donagahadee and the development of a programme of recognition at Council level.
Speaking after the vote, Gavin said, “The North Channel Swim is the world’s most difficult one of its kind. Since records began in 1947, only 23 people have successfully completed the swim although many, many more have attempted it.
“By creating a physical acknowledgement of the importance of the swim on information boards at Donaghadee Harbour, and developing a formal process by which we can celebrate future successes, we will be able to capitalise on the growing world wide interest there is in this event.”
Councillor Andrew Muir who was co-sponsor of the Motion added “The Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA) has actively promoted this and other cold water swims in Ireland and I hope we can work with them to develop this programme of recognition for future successes.
“If marathon runners are the heroes of the running world, then long distance, cold-water swimmers are the heroes of this world and it is fantastic that we are now going to formally acknowledge these world-class athletes.”
Acknowledged as the world’s most difficult channel swim, the 18.6 nautical miles between the County Down and Mull of Galloway coasts challenge swimmers with temperatures of 12 degrees centigrade, difficult weather and water conditions and pods of jellyfish.
“While there are not very many attempts and even fewer successes at the challenging North Channel Swim, the value to the Borough is much wider than the numbers would suggest,” Gavin explained.
Quoting the example of Donegal woman Ann Marie Ward, Gavin added “In 2010 Ann Marie Ward was the first Irish person – man or woman – to complete the swim after having attempted it four times. As a result of her resilience, determination and finally success, she was awarded the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year.
“Her Award saw her flown to New York where she told a swimming audience at Columbia University of her experience before being taken to the UN Building where she repeated her story to an international audience.
“At each step of the way she told her audiences of her experiences here in our Borough. In effect she was an unpaid ambassador for tourism in Ards and North Down.
“We weren’t in a position to take advantage of the public relations benefit of her success then – but we will be in the future.”
Andrew added, “Working with the ILDSA we will hopefully see more successful attempts of the Swim and will not only celebrate with them, but have a programme in place to spread the word of what an incredible tourism destination we have here in Ards and North Down.”