Virgins In The Open Water

Virgins In The Open Water

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, and Ronan Keating are promoting their 56-mile ten-person relay in the Irish Sea as the longest distance relay swim in the open water.

1 Swim, 1 Team, 1 World Record, £1 Million, 56 Miles is their theme and goal.

While their goal to raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK is a mighty worthwhile goal, it does not appear that the promoters or the Guinness Book of World Record have thoroughly researched the world of open water swimming records.

Not only did the Ventura Deep Six relay swim 202 miles over 4 days facing the documented sharks of the Pacific Ocean as well as flesh-nibbling fish and jellyfish, but they did it with 6 people without wetsuits under the traditional English Channel rules (shown above). Then there was also the 6-person teams Sport City Mexico from Mexico City and the Sun Rice Team from Australia’s Bondi Beach that both completed an extraordinarily difficult 80-mile four-way relay crossing of the English Channel.

While sharks are being promoted in the Irish Sea from Dublin, Ireland to Holyhead, Wales, there are other obstacles that stand in their way – cold water, Lion’s Mane and rough conditions.

As with every marathon swimming attempt, the global open water swimming community wishes them well and looks forward to their success. Certainly the 10-member team will raise lots of money for an excellent cause, but the list of world records in the sport is probably not known – including the original team that first completed the 56-mile Irish Sea crossing in 29 hours and 56 minutes back in 2003.

Unprecedented or not, world record or not, the Irish Sea is full of obstacles. As marathon swimmer Owen O’Keefe explains, “They will face an Irish Sea full of very big jellies if it’s any way calm. Basking sharks, orcas, loggerhead turtles – feeding on the jellies – and so on present in summertime also. Humpback whales have also been seen breaching off Carnsore Point in recent times.” Colleague Paul Chew says, “I have swam with basking sharks in the Irish sea. They are wonderful creatures and very inquisitive. [The shark that came alongside me] was 25 feet long with a dorsal fin of over 5 feet. He swam up to me to see what form of life would get out a perfectly good boat to get into freezing water.”

Note: World record open water swimming relay records are posted here.

Photo of Ventura Deep Six courtesy of

Copyright © 2011 by World Open Water Swimming Association