Anne-Marie Ward was the first woman from Ireland to complete the North Channel in 2010 in 18 hours and 59 minutes. It was quite a memorable success as she failed in 2008 after 17.5 hours – a swim covered in a TG4 programme that same year. This programme, perhaps more than anything, gave the public in Ireland an insight into the awesome challenge of marathon swimming and the cruelty of adverse tides and conditions. She attempted again in 2009 and again in 2010 one month before completing – typically in water below 12 C. This earned her the 2010 award as the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year. In June 2011, at the United Nations, Ward accepted the award gave a speech with the famous line: “this is my first ever medal from swimming”.
She started her marathon career in 2003 with a wetsuit swim (her last) from Tory Island to Magheroarty (10 miles) with torrential rain, a thunderstorm, fork lightning and strong currents. The swim took 8 hours and 15 minutes. Good preparation for the trials ahead! Three years later Anne-Marie was part of the 6 person 830-mile Round Ireland team which swam for 56 days, the longest non-consecutive marathon stage relay in the world.
In 2007 she completed the English Channel at age 41 in 20 hours and 4 minutes. This earned her the CSA’s prestigious Pierre van Voreen Award for the best swim in arduous conditions with a finish in force 5/6 winds.
Anne-Marie then moved to the Ice – the first European to complete an Ice Mile (Mulroy, Donegal in February 2012) accredited by the International Ice Swimming Association. The next year she was part of the relay team and completed the Bering Strait (86 km with water temperatures between 2.5 and 10C) over a 6 day period – resulting in her first global award: World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
Anne-Marie is simply the most inspiring marathon swimmer ever from Ireland.
Gráinne Moss (née Gunn) was selected to represent Ireland at the inaugural World Cup Long Distance Swimming Championships in 1986 at the age of 16. This was a pivotal event in the history of marathon swimming as the first 25 km held under the auspices of FINA. Gráinne finished 9th behind leading swimmers including Bridget Young (International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame).
Gráinne became the first Irish female to swim the English Channel completing the crossing in 11 hours and 52 minutes in 1987 and in 2001 became the first from Ireland to complete the Cook Strait 26 km in New Zealand.
She won the 17km Ladies Irish Open Water Swimming Championship seven times (1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2001) and finished 3rd in the 25th Anniversary swim in 2015. She also swam across Galway Bay twice and completed Windermere 10.5 miles and English Open Water Champions Ullswater 25 km in 1996.
It is important to realise that there were very few established marathon swims in the years between 1986 and 2001. This makes Gráinne’s accomplishments even more impressive.
She has also given back to the sport. In 2000 Gráinne swam seven lakes in New Zealand in 7 days raising awareness and funds for water safety and continues to mentor other marathon swimmers. Two of the lakes were marathon swims: Lake Tarawera 11.5 km and Lake Rotorua 10 km.
Ion was the second swimmer from Ireland to complete the Oceans Seven and 8th globally. He was the 163rd to complete the Triple Crown – now ticking off both of the sport’s great “bucket list” accomplishments. While a dual national (Moldova and Ireland), Ion’s open water swimming success all happened while living in Bray.
All the above swims were accomplished in less than 41 months: 9/2014 to 1/2018: English Channel 13 hours and 34 minutes, Catalina Channel 11 hours and 1 minute, Manhattan 7 hours and 55 minutes, North Channel 16 hours and 24 minutes, Molokai Channel 18 hours and 11 minutes, Cook Strait 11 hours and 5 minutes, Tsugaru Channel 11 hours and 20 minutes and Strait of Gibraltar 4 hours and 41.
Ion also completed the famous fresh water Lake Zurich 9 hours and 9 minutes, the 25-km swim from Bray to Wicklow, an ice mile and pioneered a 235-km staged swim “Unites Moldova” River Nistru in Moldova
He has used his swimming to raise the profile of peace and kindness around the world and is active in raising money for Moldovan charities. Created the Charity Sports Unites which gets children off the streets and integrate them in to sports, like swimming, football, etc. In 2016 they opened the first artificial sports ground.
Ned Denison is Ireland’s most prolific marathon swimmers with 47 epic marathon swims (8 were first ever solos and only 4 were done more than once).
His 25 km and above solos include:
Triple Crown: English Channel, Manhattan and Catalina Channel (8 hours and 50 minutes – at the end of 2016 the 31st fastest of all 413 swims).
Around Jersey (54 km), Formentura to SE end of Ibiza (30 km), Kalamata (30 km), Lake Memphremagog (25 km), Jersey to France (26.4 km) and Menorca Channel race (25 km).
Ned holds or held the following speed records:
S.C.A.R. (4 marathons in 4 days: 66.9 km) – Fastest male set in 2013
Cold Half – Hong Kong (15 km) set record in 2014 and broke it in 2017
Lake Zurich (26.4 km) male 50+ record holder since 2008
4-way Strait of Messina (12.9 km)
Santa Barbara Channel (31 km)) 10 hours and 27 minutes (Record holder 9-2006 to 9-2012)
Notable Swims in Ireland:
Cork to Cobh Ireland (16 km) – three times, Inishbofin, Galway, Rathlin Island and Champion of Champions (8 km, 4.8 km then 1.6 km) Sandycove Island 2008 1st 2009 2nd Broadstrand 2014 1st 2015 2nd.
Two (first ever) swims in Ireland – accredited by the ILDSA: Around the Great Island – Cobh (25.7 km) and Around Valentia Island (25.7 km) with water temperatures 12.2 – 13.8 degrees C.
First Ever and Notable Swims outside of Ireland:
First group of soloers to ever swim: Ile du Levant via Cap-Blance to Hyéres (24km), Anti-Clockwise Around Anacapa (16 km) and St Joseph’s Island – part of Devil’s Island Prison (12.8 km),
Rottnest (9.75 km), Strait of Gibraltar (14.4 km), Robben Island, Around Robben Island (11 km) and Boston Light (/12.9 km).
False Bay – South Africa (34 km) 11 hours and 5 minutes – 5th soloer in 400 square miles of water with 200 Great White Sharks.
Ned is already in the Ireland Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Administrator
Honour Contributor (Organisation)
Sandycove Isand in Kinsale, County Cork, has been Ireland’s most productive and inspiring marathon swimming location since 2005. Prior to 2005 there were only 13 marathon swims recorded by County Cork swimmers: River Lee 1973 to County Hall, 1987 Blackrock to Cobh plus 1999-2003 three swims across Clew Bay.
In 2004 fourteen Sandycove Island swimmers signed up for English Channel (EC) solos and two-way relays. They were all successful and the local marathon swimming craze took hold.
From 2005 to 2012 an annual marathon dinner was held – drawing EC soloers from around Ireland. It helped set the stage for the annual ILDSA awards event. In 2013 the Global Open Water Swimming Conference and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF) Induction/Awards Dinner was held in Cork. It was the most successful ever IMSHOF event and the organisers were awarded the Poseidon Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
2018 saw the tenth year of the Cork Distance Week. This attracts more than 80 proven and aspiring marathoners from around the world for 9 days of intensive training. For the past few years this is combined with The Triple Crown dinner – with 93 attendees honouring this rare accomplishment – with many being further inspired.
The number of swimmers (as of 2018) from around the world who have completed a lap of Sandycove Island: 153 EC soloers, 32 Triple Crowners, 11 IMSHOF Honorees and 3 Oceans Seven (of 9 globally).
Sandycove Island swimmers have completed 104 solos on 20 km and above: 73 in salt water including 19 one-way English Channel solos and 21 in fresh water. The list above does not include the solos between 10 km and 20 km and many relays. The Sandycove Swimmers have travelled the global and put marathon swimming in Ireland on the map!
The organisation of the Sandycove Island swimmers is complex and loose. The Sandycove Island Swim Club provides some structure but swimmers from local masters clubs as well as swimmers from the rest of Ireland and abroad are welcome. Our members are the leading organisers, record keepers, swim gear producers (example free “Cork Marathon Swimmer” caps) and have assisted groups in Myrtleville and Lough Ine without rancour.
The records now show 149 marathon swimmers from County Cork: 36 completed 25 km and above, 55 completed 10 miles to 25 km and 149 completed 10 km to 10 miles. This explosion and success has been led by the Sandycove Island swimmers who complete marathons regularly, inspire and help.
Finally, many of the swimmers raised money for local charities during their marathon swims.
Honour Contributor (Administrator)
Stephen Millar has dedicated nearly two decades to the promotion and management of marathon swimming. He served as Chair or Vice Chair of the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA) since 2005. The ILDSA manages several of the leading marathons in Ireland: North Channel and Lough Erne.
In recent years the North Channel organisation has greatly increased in size and many more swimmers now attempt and succeed annually.
Under Stephen’s leadership the original 17Km Lough Erne marathon has now turned into a “Festival” with five events running on the same day: 1.5Km, 5Km, 10Km, 17Km and 25Km Challenge.
He is an accomplished marathoner as well: twice completed Lough Erne 17Km in the early 1990s. While not a marathon Stephen heads a team that organises the Grand Dublin Swim – to get many new swimmers hooked on the sport. Finally, his Bus Company financially supports many events and the ILDSA.