On Sunday last, 20 July, twenty-two Irish swimmers braved the currents and over enthusiastic VIP, press, and “safety boats” for the 26th Annual Cross-Continental Swim on the Bosphorus, Istanbul. In all, 1648 swimmers competed from something like 34 nations; of these 45 Did Not Finish and 38 were Disqualified. All of the Irish made it safely home which was an impressive achievement. Phoenix, NAC Masters, Glenalbyn, Sandycove, Swim4Life and Eastern Bay were all represented in addition there we’re also a few swimmers not affiliated currently to any club.
The race started with all 1648 competitors being ferried to the Asian side for the start.
It was a large boat and the whole thing felt a bit like a massive away trip for the most mixed national swim team you could imagine. There was of course the mandatory delay at the start. Rowan Guinan from Eastern Bay had his two minutes of fame when a local TV channel singled him out for an interview. A real Oscar moment in fact. Eventually, we got the Go at which point the swimmers had to jump off a pontoon attached to the boat to start the race. Timing chips were used so the Lemming-like mass start that took place was not really necessary. Still, 1600 odd bodies entering the water in less that 5 minutes was quite a sight. But the Bosphorus is very wide so within a further minute or two the crowd had dispersed and it was possible to swim unhindered for most of the race. And that was perhaps the high point of it all. Cruising down one of the most renowned waterways in the world in clear water watching the marker points roll by: bridges, pylons, fortresses, islands… or at least it was for me.The swim itself was amazing. The water speed made it all a bit surreal – we were current assisted at about 4 to 5kph! It was like being Michael Phelps for a day. But it was tricky too. All 22 Irish will have their own different stories to tell about those bridges and power lines and islands but one thing we all could agree on was that the moment of breaking out of the flow and making towards the finish is a game changer. We all either started into the finish either too early or too late! You can get a sense of this from the spread-pattern evident in the picture taken by the drone at the finish. Of course, sticking a three deck VIP boat directly in line of sight most swimmers needed on the finish pontoon did not help either. But nevertheless, there we were in or around an hour to ninety minutes later, clambering ashore on the Europe side. Cross-Continental Swimmers all.
Luckily, the thunder and lightning storm that happened on Saturday did not reoccur. If it had, we were told with great enthusiasm by the organisers, the race would have been cancelled or abandoned. In the latter case “almost” every swimmer would have been taken from the water. Some it seems we’re expected to find their own way ashore or perhaps make land somewhere along the Sea of Marmara.
In a way this reflects the rather scary part of it all. The event was marked by lots of enthusiasm but also by organisation that appeared to be haphazard at best. Disorderly Queues were the order of the day. Queue for accreditation, queue for the bag drop, queue for the boat, queue to start the race, in some cases queue to finish it, queue for your cert, queue for your bag…. with “Queue” being open to a very loose reading! The safety boats seem to cause most of the safety issues. One of our own swimmers came very close to an encounter with a jet ski. I myself had a boat heading straight for me and had to stop and to wave for about 90 rather anxious seconds until the pilot saw me and changed course.
That said, when well clear of the chaos, most of the Irish swimmers felt they would like another go at it now that they have had the experience! Each of us probably thinking they could make a better job of it the next time. But for the watchers and supporters it might be harder to say. It’s one thing to see a bit of the chaos taking place among the race fleet from water-level. Seeing the whole thing unfold from the shoreline was very probably fear-making of a different scale!
Notable Age-Group results
- John Redmond, Sandycove, 14th
- Rachel Doyle, Phoenix, 6th
- Jenny Hickey, NAC Masters 10th
- Sandra O’Leary, NAC Masters 3
- Anne Marie Kendrick, Phoenix, 3
- Dymphna Morris, Swim4Life, 1
- Anne McAdam, Phoenix, 1
Full results can be found at ttp://bogazici.olimpiyat.org.tr/sayfa_detay.aspx?id=29
Photos of the event can be found at http://bogazici.olimpiyat.org.tr/galeri.aspx