The ILDSA North Channel Observer

The role of the ILDSA North Channel Observer is as a representative for the ILDSA for a channel crossing.

The ILDSA North Channel Observer will independently monitor the swim progress to ensure that all North Channel rules are adhered to. This includes recording the progress of the swimmer, attire, feeding regime, climate, weather conditions, sea state, stroke rate and air and water temperature.  The ILDSA North Channel Observer presents an observer’s report together with the swim co-ordinates, plotting the progression of the swim for ratification by the ILDSA Recorder.

Once ratified, your successful crossing will be entered into the Official Record ILDSA Books.

Why do we need observers?

Mercedes Gleitze successfully swam the English Channel on 7th October 1927, becoming the fastest woman to complete the swim in 15 hours 15 minutes. A few days after, her accomplishment was put in doubt when another woman claimed that she had swum the channel faster. It was later discovered that this claim was totally unfounded and a hoax; it nevertheless put Mercedes under pressure to complete the swim again. She agreed to undertake the ‘vindication swim‘ that October, when the water temperature was much colder. She failed to complete the swim but her bravery and determination convinced all that the original record should stand.

The use of independent observers ensures that all swims witnessed by the ILDSA are forthright and completed according to the rules.  Since 1939 to date (2020), only 80 swimmers have successfully crossed the North Channel.  There have been many unsuccessful attempts and the reports from the ILDSA Observers are a true testament to the challenging waters that swimmers face in their attempt.

Qualities of an ILDSA North Channel Observer

This highly challenging swim requires a swimmer to have invested a lot of time and effort in preparing for it.  You will be part of that special day with them to witness their journey. It can be a long day at sea, with an early start and trying sea conditions.

Qualities of a ILDSA North Channel Observer include:

  • Being fit and active
  • Having sea legs – experience of being on board a boat for long periods of time, or being an open water swimmer
  • Ability to document in written and photographic form the progress of the swim exactly how it happens and present these on the official documentation for ratification.

Other questions for would-be Observers

This refers to the proceedings from when the swimmer enters the water to attempt the North Channel to the point they finish.

An ILDSA North Channel Observer will receive a fixed expense payment.

Payment will be made when the ILDSA North Channel Observer’s report has been ratified by the ILDSA.

A North Channel swim attempt start time is dictated by tides and weather.  The start time could be 4am or 4pm.

It is important that you will be able to arrive at these locations in a timely manner to meet the swimmer and swimmers crew and complete the pre-swim documentation.

You may only get as little as 8 hours’ notice in advance of the start time, so your flexibility / availability will be required. Rotas are based on availability and on a rotational basis as there can be days when there are 4 – 5 swims planned. You would never be asked to work on two successive days.  The North Channel Secretary will advise you of the start time / meet point the evening before your swim.

The average crossing time for a solo crossing is between is 12-14 hours so you need to be prepared with food and drinks and clothing for all weathers.  If it is a two way swim or multiple crossings, the ILDSA will provide additional observers so that the duties of the ILDSA North channel observer can be shared.

ILDSA offer the opportunity for open water swimmers to have their swim ratified; you may be asked to provide service as an ILDSA Observer for other swim routes around Ireland eg: Dal Riata Channel, Irish Sea, Oa Channel.

All detailed information will be provided in the ILDSA Observers’ training.

How do I sign up to be an ILDSA North Channel Observer?

You must first attend an ILDSA North Channel Observer training course before you can become an official ILDSA  North Channel Observer.

ILDSA make an ILDSA North Channel Observers CALL via social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – @OWSIreland) and this website in March of each year, and training takes place in May.

(In 2020 the ILDSA North Channel Observers CALL was in June with online webinar scheduled for July)

Email [email protected] with your expression of interest and for more details.

Register as an ILDSA North Channel Observer