Man to attempt first solo swim of Lough Ree
By Finian Coghlan
In preparation for the fulfillment of an ambition that will require “dodging tankers”, an Athlone man hopes that, on August 18, he will become the first man ever to swim the entire length of Lough Ree.
On that date Jim O’Connor (50) is planning to swim the 32 km (20 miles) between Lanesborough bridge and the slip at the back of Sean’s Bar, and earn his place in at least one version of the Guinness Book of Records.
“It’s never been done before. It’s been done in relays, but never solo,” he said this week in a break from a training schedule that sees him swim nearly 50 km a week.
Coincidently, two of the participants who completed the river relay in 2007 - Dave Warby and Denise Dolan - are both part of Jim’s organising committee for his anticipated 12-hour marathon.
“I used to do the triathlons but had to give them up because my knee was not up to it any more,” he explained when quizzed what possessed him.
After doing the two-kilometre Salthill Prom Swim in 2010, he entered the 13.5 km Clare-Galway swim last year and “really enjoyed it”.
After completing this in open water, he decided he would work towards an attempt to swim the 35 Km (22 mile) English Channel: “But I couldn’t get a booking before [August] 2014”.
Because of the logistics in organising a swim through the busiest shipping lane in the world - “avoiding tankers” - the safety committee of the Channel swim have laid down a set of very strict rules, and offer a very small timetable of possibility in which such an undertaking may be attempted.
As a consolation, Dave Warby suggested doing the Lough Ree swim, which has never been done, but due to Dave’s other commitments, Jim found himself preparing for the start line on his own.
He has been training hard since January 2, and has already been swimming in the 12 degree lake since early May without a wet suit. It’s one of the Channel swim rules.
Traditionally, the only insulation allowed was a liberal coating of goose grease, but Jim assures me he will be applying a much more modern petroleum jelly.
“Wetsuits are for wusses!” laughed the intrepid Jim, who will have to feed on high energy gels every 20 minutes.
The swim will be done in aid of the South Westmeath Hospice, and there is also room for 32 other strong swimmers to bolster this account, as there will be a support boat travelling behind with a relay team, each swimming one kilometre of the course.