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Only a few days away from the 4th Galley Head swim fundraiser. This swim starts at Red strand beach and finishes at the Warren strand. An epic 10km course taking in the Galley Head lighthouse. This swim is very challenging as the waters are rough, the water temperatures are currently 11 degrees and there’s plenty of marine life en route to add to the challenge of this swim. Several swimmers will take to the water on Sat July 9th all for different reasons, and personal goals, but all sharing one common purpose to raise vital funds for Marymount Hospice, West Cork Underwater Search and Rescue and Community Air Ambulance. All swimmers need to raise €500 to partake in the swim. We , the ‘Clonakilty Dolphins’, are collectively fundraising and we need your support. All proceeds, big and small make a difference and all donations go to the charities. a little background to us the Clonakilty Dolphins which grew organically after 2 swimmers started swimming together to help each other and more names got added. We now proudly wear our own Clonakilty Dolphins hats and hoodies as we have become a lovely pod of swimmers and friends, I got chatting to Neilus O’Gorman who set this group up. Neilus, can you tell me a bit about the group? ‘The Clonakilty Dolphins is a swim group consisting of people who enjoy open water swimming and who want to swim safely by swimming with others. In July 2019 I joined a master’s swim class run by Billy Horgan at the Warren beach. Under Billy’s guidance I immediately became hooked on the idea of open water swimming. The key to improving as a swimmer is practice, “you have to do the hard yards”, and as a novice swimmer it is not safe to venture too far from shore on your own. While chatting to my good friend Tom Mulcahy in August 2020 we decided that we would go on a few swims together to help us both improve. As we prepared to get in the water at Inchydoney for our first swim we met Emer Murphy who happened to be going in for a swim the same evening. After our swim we agreed that we would set up a What's App group to allow us to coordinate some swims and get some practice in. We named the Whats App group “The Clonakilty Dolphins” and so the swim group was born. Friends and acquaintances began to join us and currently the group has over 50 members. If someone is planning a swim, they post the details on the What's App group and some other members will usually join them.’

From our group we have 3 solos this year: Vini Arruda, Richie Forristal and Anthony Auffret.

We also have 5 teams: Cordelias (Oonagh Brady, Ann Phair, Claire Deasy and Celine Griffin), 5 non blondes (Mary-Rose Keating, Sean Brennan, Richard O’Sullivan and Pat Leahy ), Dashing Dolphins (Aislinn Finn and Kevin Fox), Bottlenosed beauties(Siobhan Williamson, Lena Tiernan, Tom Mulcahy and Richard Casey) and Where’s Wally (Lorna O’Regan and Brian Harrington).

Richie set up our go fund me page this year

Richie set up our gofund me page this year

Richie when did you start open water swimming?

I started regular open water swimming with a friend in August 2020, a pandemic thing, Thought it would be good for the head and the immune system when we were all locked down and fearing for our lives. That was just togs dipping in Simons Cove, but I kept it up for a full year 2/3 times a week. what made you decide to do the Galley this year?
Over the summer last year, I heard loads of people talking about the Galley Head swim and thought it would be cool to do. So I decided to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. So I threw on my wetsuit and got out swimming with the Dolphins.

The Galley Head Swim event, although only in its 4th year has become an extremely popular event and is very much an event you want to be part of.

In 2019 for its very first event there were 26 swimmers, 15 support boats with 30 crew members.
In 2020 there were 89 swimmers, 44 support boats with 80 crew members
In 2021, 150 swimmers with 65 supports boats and 130 crew members.
in 2022 124 swimmers and 54 boats

This event requires so much planning and organisation and is heavily reliant on the support of volunteers. There will be 5 safety boats, the civil defence ambulance and a team of paddle boarders at the start and finish line.

The swimmers participating vary in age, ability and experience of sea swimming but all have a common goal and that’s to support this amazing event and help with the fundraising efforts for WCUSAR and Marymount. Each swimmer has a personal goal as well be it to swim the full distance or be part of a relay.

This will be my 3rd year participating in the galley swim. The first year I did as a 2 person relay with Emma Hurley, last year as a solo and this year once again as a 2 person relay with Brian Harrington. As events go, I really do enjoy this one. Last year was a personal challenge to do the 10km and this year I decided against a solo swim due to time constraints. Being part of the Clonakilty Dolphins has allowed me to join in on the long and short swims and really enjoy the training this year.

Margaret Deegan is also a very active dolphin, and leads our pod of dolphins on many swims. Margaret is also heavily involved in the organising of the Galley Head Swim

Margaret can you give our readers a better understanding of this event and the importance of it to the charities:

‘The Galley Head swim, now in its 4th year, has become a truly iconic event. It’s much more than just a swim. It’s a massive challenge for many on so many levels- physical, mental, emotional, logistical and organisational- and for whatever reason someone chooses to take part, there is a fantastic sense of achievement on completion. The training and the day has fostered new friendships and an amazing community of swimmers. The priority on the day is of course safety and for that we are so grateful to all the skippers that provide their expertise and boats on the day and all those support boats from various organisations that help us out on the day. We absolutely could not do it without that level of support from volunteers in our community. And while this marathon swim requires effort and commitment in preparations, we cannot forget those we are doing it for. Those suffering a terminal illness or those waiting on news of a missed loved one, or those needing urgent critical care but far from hospital. These are the real challenges faced by ordinary people every day, The absolute goal of this event is to raise as much as we possibly can for the 3 wonderful charities- Marymount hospice, West Cork Underwater Search and rescue and Irish community air ambulance.

So we ask and encourage everyone to dig deep and do their utmost to raise as much as they possibly can’

So who are the organisers???

Pat Mulcahy, Tony Rafferty, Geoff Wycherley, Justin Crowley, Paul Melody, Steve Clery and Margaret Deegan,

Pat how did the idea of this swim come about?

‘The idea for doing a 10km swim came from swimming the Galway Bay Swim in 2017 in aid of Cancer Care West. James Deasy, Steve Clery, Tony Rafferty and myself swam a relay and the following year we swam it solo. Myself and James spoke about maybe doing our own local charity swim given the fantastic coastline we have in West Cork. We thought about this for a while but as we were heading into the winter and so the idea lost a little traction until I said it to Justin Crowley and Geoff Wycherley in a bar on a ski holiday in Austria. Within an hour we had a course planned and agreed to go ahead with the first ever Galley Head Swim. Within a week or so Tony Rafferty joined us as one of the four organizers. ‘

How did ye decide on the charities?

‘My main aim was to set up a challenging charity swim and all the proceeds go to West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue. We thought if we could manage this swim correctly then it could become a very big event. We then discussed if we should contribute to two charities. Justin asked if we could consider the second charity as Marymount Hospice as Alice’s final days were spent there and he said the care was unbelievable. At that time my sister was also in Marymount Hospice and I also found the care to be fantastic. We then agreed that they were the two charities that should benefit from the swim. I am the current chairman of the West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue unit and was also one of the founding members. We always struggle to get funds into the unit and mostly have used our own dive gear, boats, compressors and fuel when training and on official searches. With the money from this swim we can now purchase some of the bigger items and in the longer term go on to build or buy a unit to house all our equipment. The dive unit is the most successful open water SAR unit in the country and is the only unit who have managed more than 100 divers on numerous search and recovery operations. The dive unit have been 100% successful in finding and recovering victims where other organizations have failed. It is imperative that this unit is funded as much as possible as families need closure on the loss of their loved ones. We thank everyone who has made the effort to train and to fund raise because of you, there would be no swim. Very much appreciated by the Galley Head Swim Team and West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue.’ Justin Crowley is another one of the organisers and well known in Clonakilty from his salon, ‘a cut above’ and his heavy involvement in Cork Surf Lifesaving.

Justin is at the heart of the atmosphere on the day of the event and takes a big role in the safety aspect of this event. Major planning goes into this from deciding on the date based on tides, organising many people to ensure the smooth running and safety of each person registering. Justin what makes this event so special?

‘There is no event like this. It is quite unique, who would ever thought they would get the opportunity to swim around the Galley Head. It’s a mad idea really'( laughing ).’Being on the beach and seeing the joy and sense of achievement on people’s faces is just fantastic.’ How did you get involved as one of the organisers?

‘I was on a skiing trip and the idea was discussed and I was in. Geoff wanted the finish point to be in the Warren and we planned the 10km course backwards, hence the Red strand as the starting point. Swimming around the Galley is dangerous but we have had 3 very successful years and I am positive we will have another great year this year. The numbers are growing and its great to be able to support 2 great Charities. Marymount which is dear to me as Alice spent time there before her passing, and WCUWSAR as the members were self funding equipment , petrol etc and they needed financial assistance to support their wonderful efforts.’

WCUSAR and this year we are delighted to be adding a 3rd charity, Irish air Ambulance. The West Cork Underwater Search and Rescue was formed after the Tit Bonhomme trawler sank off Union Hall on the 15 January 2012. Divers from West Cork were asked by the Emergency Services to help with the underwater search as five crew members including the captain were missing. The local divers responded and asked other divers from all over the country to help in the mammoth task to finding the missing crew. Hundreds of dives were completed by the Navy Dive Unit, The Garda Dive Unit and up to one hundred recreational divers from all over Ireland. It took twenty-six days to recover all crew members. Divers from West Cork decided that a local unit was required to respond at short notice as It could take many hours for the official resources to mobilise. Some situations are a matter of life and death depending on how fast divers can respond. The local divers decided to put a professional structure in place with proper logistical back up and support to aid such efforts. West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue is a very active unit and is a member of the Irish Underwater Council (CFT). The divers in the unit are CFT divers, are Search And Recovery (SAR) qualified and a number are also qualified as Diver First Responders. The unit has been tasked numerous times in the past few years to search for missing people of the coast, in rivers and lakes in West Cork. Constant training is required all year around as conditions are very different depending on the weather. The unit is always on standby seven days a week and are willing to respond at a moment’s notice.

Most of the equipment that is used in the unit personally belong to the divers, ie 4 x4 vehicles, boats, dive compressors, fuel, and much more. The unit has purchased some of the newest SAR diving technology from donations made to the unit. Funds from the Galley head swim will enable WCUSAR to purchase vital equipment and set up a base to serve as a training and operations centre for the unit.

I spoke to 2 members of WCUSAR, Eamonn Barry and Ian McLelland Ian how long have you been a member of West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue? ‘I’ve been part of the unit for the past 5 years since moving to West Cork 8 years ago. I’ve been diving since I was in my early twenties (a long time ago now!) starting with the standard PADI licence but then progressing to include technical diving, cave diving, ice diving, divemaster and search and recovery diver. And I’m one of the least qualified divers in the unit!’ Tell me about your experience as a skipper for the Galley Head swim event?

Obviously the waters around the Galley can be challenging for all involved but it’s a spectacular stretch of coastline . Managing a boat for a swimmer requires constant focus and diligence on the part of skipper, crew & swimmer – it’s a real team effort! But the event is really well organised, there’s an amazing buzz about the whole thing, and the sense of accomplishment is incredible. I loved the feeling of “handing off” my swimmer to the safety kayakers and paddle boarders just outside the Warren, job done! I was also very lucky to have a great crew on board the boat, including one of my kids, Patrick (8) and although it was a lot of work, we managed to have great craic at the same time!

I also got chatting to Eamonn Barry who is heavily involved with WCUWSAR Eamonn, can you tell me about your position in West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue?

‘I sit on the committee of West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue where I am currently the Equipment Officer. I was one of the founding members of this organisation back in 2012.’ How did you get into scuba diving? ‘I began Scuba Diving in Baltimore in 1994, I started with a ‘Try Dive’ and ended up doing the 5 day PADI Open Water Diver Course. West Cork is an amazing place to start your diving adventures with some amazing shipwrecks and beautiful scenic diving. Conditions as we all know around the South West Coast can be challenging and visibility can be limited to say the least on occasions, it’s for this reason that your experience and skills are at a very high level if you train in these conditions. When conditions are good it is just beautiful. In 2001 I became a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor and in 2012 I became a Search & Recovery Diver.’

Can you recall 1/2 rewarding experiences in a search and rescue operation?

‘So West Cork Underwater Search & Rescue unfortunately don’t rescue too many people, we are primarily called out to search &recovery incidents, although the skills I have as a Search & Recovery Diver have definitely played a very big part in some recent rescues I have taken part in with other voluntary organisations. It’s hard to describe the feeling a rescue brings, saving a life is something very special and I am very aware and respectful of the dangers this type of work entails. Success to me is coming home safe to my wife and family after doing my job to the best of my ability. I have been a Search & Recovery Diver for nearly 10 years now and during that time our unit has been tasked to many incidents. Our unit can be tasked by the Irish Coastguard 24/7 365 days a year. Any rewarding calls? I can honestly say anytime I put on a voluntary jacket/ dry suit it is a rewarding experience. Having the skills & training to be able to return a loved one back to their family after being lost in our waterways be they inland (rivers) or offshore is simply priceless. When that “Thank You” phone call from a Mum, Dad or other family member comes to me or another member of our unit after a recovery it brings with it a massive sense of achievement.’

What does a fundraiser like the Galley Swim mean for West Cork Underwater Search &Rescue? ‘To be considered a beneficiary of the Galley Swim once again this year is a privilege. Obviously in the current climate charities all over the country have had to re-invent their fundraising strategy so we really are extremely grateful. We have an exciting 5-year plan for our unit where we are hoping we will encourage new members to join. Plans are well under way for the design and purchase of a new Rib for the unit which will be used in Search & Rescue in West Cork & beyond if requested. Although we operate on a voluntary basis our unit is held in high regard and considered a professional unit all over Ireland for the operation & management of search operations.

Marymount University Hospital and Hospice I spoke with Carol Walsh, Fundraising Officer for Marymount to get a bigger understanding of the importance of these fundraising activities. Can you highlight the importance of fundraising activities for Marymount?’ ‘Marymount University Hospital and Hospice provides specialist palliative care services and services to care for the dependent older person. The palliative care service include a 44 bed in-patient unit, a day care service and an out-patient department, community based services and bereavement and family supports. The services for the Older Person include long term care options, respite care and palliative care support services. Marymount is heavily reliant on fundraising and is well supported by the Cork community. Marymount needs to raise 3.5 million euro annually to maintain the high level of Patient Care they provide. This year fundraising initiates will be focused on maintaining the current level of service and ensuring that patients are not adversely affected by the measures implemented as a result of Covid-19. Every donation, big or small is put to good use.

This year a 3rd charity was added to the Galley Head Swim Fundraising event, Community air ambulance. This is a vital and valuable service offering fast access to advanced clinical interventions at the roadside by highly trained pre-hospital emergency care medical personnel. Most critically, the Air Ambulance can bring the casualty to the hospital that best suits their life saving needs, not just the closest geographically. The Air Ambulance is airborne in under four minutes of being tasked by the National Ambulance Service, and is thirty minutes away from most of the areas within its catchment.

If you want to support these amazing charities, support our fabulous group of swimmers who have been putting in the training and acclimatising to our cool waters please click on our link below

many thanks, Lorna and the Clonakilty Dolphins