Sponsors, charities and swimmers gathered at Buttermilk Art Café in Portnablagh for the launch of the Gartan Open Water events.
Donegal is the place to test yourself - to push your limits, or to try something new.
Gartan Open Water Swimmers have added a new string to Donegal’s bow in recent years, alongside events like WAAR, the Donegal Atlantic Way Ultra, or The Race. Two years ago they launched the inaugural Gartan Swim Challenge, and last year they added the Sheephaven Bay Swim.
“Donegal has everything for those who want to push themselves - hills, mountains, loughs and sea," Mark Loughridge said at the launch of this year’s swims on Friday evening.
“We’ve got everything here, and these swim events provide people with a chance to try something different, to push themselves to new limits, and to discover Donegal.”
The events are designed for a range of swimmers. The Gartan Swim Challenge provides an opportunity for those new to open water swimming to try it out, and for those experienced who want to step up a distance or push themselves over standard to ironman triathlon distances.
The 3.5km Sheephaven Bay Swim is for more experienced swimmers who want to test themselves against the sea. Boats ferry swimmers out to Horn Head, and them accompany them as they swim back in to Portnablagh. Safety is paramount and there will be plenty of boats marshaling the course on the day.
“Last year we introduced the sea swim and it was a great success with over 60 swimmers taking part,” said Keith McClean, one of the organisers.
“The scenery is glorious, the water clear, and there may be the odd dolphin. Few things beat swimming in the sea in Donegal.” After last year’s success the Sheephaven Bay Swim has been added to the prestigious H2O Swim series.
The Sheephaven Bay Swim takes place on Saturday, 8th July and is sponsored by Charlie Robinson Estate Agents, Wet ‘n’ Wild, Letterkenny Credit Union, The Kitchen, Diver’s Hyundai, Communications Networks ISS Facility Services and E3Extreme.com.
It will be a great event for spectators too, so come along, there’ll be a BBQ provided by The Kitchen, and enjoy the day.
The Gartan Swim Challenge takes place on Saturday, 19th August. Last year 160 swimmers from all over the north-west, and as far as England, Wicklow and Dublin took part in their choice of four races—300m, 750m, 1500m, 3800m—some for the sheer challenge, and others for the competition.
“Last year we added a 300m race for aspiring open water swimmers aged 12-16. Donegal has fantastic young swimmers,” said Mark McCollum.
"And we wanted to give them an opportunity too.”
Karen Crawford, another of the organising team said: “We’re looking forward to seeing new swimmers and also swimmers returning this year to take on a different distance,” and Paddy Bond added, “It’s not about the race it’s about the challenge and the fun of taking part.”
Each distance is sponsored by local businesses: Gartan OETC, Voodoo Venue, Donegal Oil, and Gartan Technologies.
Additional event sponsorship is provided by Wet ‘n’ Wild, Highland Motors, Swilly Group and Peter Cutliffe. The Gartan Swim Challenge is run in association with the Gartan Outdoor Education and Training Centre who provide the superb facilities at Gartan.
Proceeds from the events will benefit two charities, the RNLI and Sheephaven Sub-Aqua club, both of which perform vital search and rescue work in the North-west.
Entries for both events are now open via Active.com. Places are limited, so get your registration in early! You can find out more on Facebook—look for ‘Gartan Open Water Swimmers’.