More people have successfully climbed to the top of Everest than swam the English channel, but for Lisburn Masters Swimming Club member Gerry Meehan, it is an aqua challenge worth taking on.
For the keen swimmer made a promise to his ill father that he would swim the English Channel with his father at the helm of the boat once he was better.
Sadly his father, also named Gerry, passed away. But Gerry remained undeterred and was determined to keep the promise.
However, when he sustained a shoulder injury while training it looked like his efforts may have been in vain. Yet his fellow Master club members and friends offered to swim the channel with him as part of a relay team - all so Gerry could achieve his goal and raise funds for the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice.
Gerry will be joined by Lisburn man Ciaran Pollock, Hillsborough woman Maureen McCoy and Banbridge man Paul McCambridge. Gerry, who is from the Finaghy area, told the Star that he was glad that he has his team mates on board.
“It’s fantastic they’re helping me. I underestimated what was involved. Open sea swimming is about getting acclimatised to the temperatures. When I first took up open sea swimming I contacted Maureen who has swam in Alaska and completed the channel four years ago, and without her expertise I probably would have given up,” he said.
“The idea to swim the Channel came about in 2007 when I spoke to the organiser of a charity event for my five-year-old niece who was suffering from cancer. That idea stayed with me and when my dad was ill, I promised that I would attempt to swim the Channel for Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, a charity that was close to his heart.”
His current training regime includes three-to-four hour swimming sessions in Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn and taking cold baths.
“It can be awful,” continued Gerry. “It’s about having energy and conserving heat. So in preparation I’ve been gaining weight to provide insulation in the water.”
The team plan to complete the channel between 12-15 hours. An experienced team (Ciaran is a swim coach who has swum professionally and Paul has swam the North Channel as part of a relay team, Gerry insists one of the biggest obtacles will be hympothermia.
“Our starting point will be Shakespeare’s Beach, Dover and our finishing point is Calais,” he revealed.
A self-employed welder, Gerry and his team mates will be supported by security company Mercury. “I have done some work for them and they offered to sponsor us which is great of them.”
Mercury will also be tracking the team’s progress across the channel using a sophiscated camera which will wirelessly transmit a live feed to Mercury’s monitoring centre without the need for electricity or broadband.
“NI Children’s Hospice does amazing work in our community and through my swim I hope to raise £5,000 which my father would be delighted with. I am so grateful for the support I have received so far from Mercury Security who have been fantastic and have helped me turned this idea into a reality,” said Gerry.
Those wishing to swim the channel are allocated timeslots and for Gerry and his team mates they could be given the go-ahead between August 27 and September 4. But he is hoping the swim will take place on August 28 - a date of personal significance for him. “It’s my dad’s birthday. He would have been 73; he passed away when he was 69. He excelled in sports. He was on the Irish cycling team, he played squash and wind-surfed. My mum’s very active as well, she plays golf. So that’s were I probably get it from,” he said. Anyone wanting to sponsor Gerry and his team and help support the work that is done within NI Children’s Hospice can make a donation at www.justgiving.com/gerrys-dip.