David Conradie Completes A Fastnet Rock Crossing

David Conradie Completes A Fastnet Rock Crossing

David Conradie Completes A Fastnet Rock Crossing

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

54-year-old Irish swimmer David Conradie described his adventure on September 10th, “Sometimes it takes a legend to trigger the spark of inspiration.

Like many, at the end of the spring I emerged from lockdown fat and unfit. I’d pretty much abandoned the 2020 season as a write-off for any significant swims. Then came the news that Steve Redmond had managed to fit in another Fastnet Rock swim while working towards his pioneering two-way success in July.

It made me think – if he can do it twice, surely I can make a shot at one? So I reached out to Noel Browne at Fastnet Swim and after some negotiation we pencilled in ‘end of August’ for an attempt. That just left me with the interesting task of working off the best part of three months’ sitting-on-my-backside.

Fortunately, I had plenty of support around me. It’s a well-worn cliche, but true all the same: there’s no such thing as a solo swim. After some early-season river swims (thanks here to the North Lee Dippers), most of the training happened at Kinsale with the Sandycove Island Swim Club. Finding my pod for those early morning and Saturday multi-lap swims was a blessing; knowing that people were waiting for me was enough to get me out of my bed, past my laziness and keep me on track. A particular hat-tip here to Celine and Billy who kept me honest.

They kept me going on plenty of days when, well, I really, really needed it.

Mid-August, another boost to motivation came with the brilliantly successful Fastnet-to-Baltimore by my friend Elaine Burrows Dillane. Elaine had been the first to interest me in the Fastnet swim during conversations in 2019, so it was a great relief and pleasure when she offered to crew for my own attempt. With Fastnet being quite weather-dependent, it wasn’t too much of a surprise that the original late-August date came and went without a suitable window. The week of the September 7th was the next suitable tide so Noel told me to be ready to go on the Monday, the 7th; looking at that day’s tide, the proposal was to go from Baltimore out to the Rock. But then the wind changed, and Monday suddenly looked far from ideal. But Thursday the 10th opened up. Down to Skibbereen for Wednesday evening, not much sleep and suddenly it’s 3 am on a windless Thursday morning heading towards the Rock on Kieran Collins catamaran Radiance.

This time, the tides favored the more conventional Fastnet-to-Baltimore line. Nothing had quite prepared me for the sight of the lighthouse flashing in the darkness, just enough light in the sky to make out the great tower, ghostly in the sky. Into the water for the short warm-up paddle to touch the Rock; then the siren, and away at around 4:30 am. I went into the swim feeling under-trained so those first couple of hours in darkness were tough; I really didn’t know if I had it in me to complete the swim.

The sight of the sky lightening around 6:30 am, a red sunrise under the clouds, was a huge and necessary pick-me-up. But Noel and Kieran had chosen a perfect day for me, the sea glassy and warm, with no wind; they plotted exactly the right line to get the best of the tide; and Elaine handled the tricky task of feeding and trickier task of entertaining me – not to mention keeping me on station with the boat – with her usual calm and efficient manner; no phones overboard.

The crew on board got the dolphin-spotting as the day wore on – all I saw were jellyfish – but I was happy to trade all the wildlife for the first sight of the Baltimore Beacon. To be fair, getting past the beacon did seem to take forever, but eventually it was indisputably behind me and Noel was pointing me at the slipway in Baltimore harbour.

A final effort to get out of the water without falling on my face – they don’t call it a slipway for nothing – and it was done, in 7:06 am, with no one more surprised than me. Huge thanks to the folks at Fastnet Swims for a great day out and a massive, Covid-compliant virtual hug to Elaine.

For more information about Fastnet Rock crossings, visit www.fastnetswim.com.

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Steven Munatones