The hugely popular Inch Mile Swim Festival made a welcome return to the shores of Rathmullan on Saturday.
The weekend swimming spectacle was organised by the Gartan Open Water Swimmers, in conjunction with Donegal Sports Partnership and Swim Ireland.
Because of the choppy waters – the swell was almost a metre high – the original plan to transport the swimmers to Inch and have them jump off and swim back to Rathmullan was changed by the organisers. Instead, the Lough Swilly Ferry transported participants towards the side and they swam the mile back across the front of the shore.
In a keenly contested battle for first, Mark Mallett from the City of Derry Derry Swimming Club just about got the better of Shane McCauley, the well-known Lifford swimmer who’s currently in training for a swim across the North Channel.
A total of 96 completed the Inch Mile, while 48 took part in the Kinnegar 500 held earlier in the day.
Speaking as the last of the swimmers sprinted up the sand and across the finish line, Mark Loughridge, a member of Gartan Open Water Swimmers, said he was delighted with how the day went.
“There’s a real sense of community here and we’ve had people travel all over to take part. I was chatting to one of the swimmers and he remarked on how well it was run. There’s a great atmosphere here, not just for the swimming fraternity, but also for Rathmullan as well.
“There’s a novelty around people starting a swim challenge and thankfully, we were able to provide them with that buzz again this year with the inclusion of the ferry.
“Several years ago, we took the swimmers out to Horn Head, threw them off the side of a boat and they swam back to Portnablagh and we’ve held a few other events around Horn Head.
“We held an event which saw swimmers complete 1k at twelve of Donegal’s blue flag beaches over four weekends. People came from all over the north and the south to take part in that challenge. Donegal is fantastic and we want people to see it,” he added.
Arthur McMahon, managing director of Donegal Oil Company which is one of the main sponsors of the Inch Mile Swim Challenge, was one of the hardy souls who completed the longer swim.
“I was looking around at the swimmers on the ferry on the way out to the start and said ‘we should be doing this every week’. This is what Donegal is for – having adventure events like this and bringing people into the county, doing something that’s healthy, and providing a platform to meet people,” he said.
“You do need a bit of infrastructure. You can’t hold something like this safely without kayaks and the ferry adds tremendously to it. Then you need a great group like to Gartan Outdoor Swimmers to pull it together, while the involvement of Swim Ireland and Donegal Sports Partnership is also important. You just need the willing guys to put it all together – just look at the turnout here today, it’s fantastic.
“I really enjoyed my swim today. I had a ball, although the last 400 metres was swimming against the tide, but we’re home now and have a good thirst built up which is the main thing. Donegal Oil Company is delighted to sponsor things like this because it’s what Donegal’s all about. Rathmullan is fantastic because it always rolls out the red carpet for big events. For a seaside town like this, it’s all about bringing people in. Local traders benefit and it puts a smile on people’s faces to see others enjoying themselves,” Arthur added.
Community Development Officer with Donegal Sports Partnership, Karen Guthrie, said the event was an ideal goal and focus for many of the local swimmers who were involved in the water open water swimming programmes being run across Donegal.
“The Gartan Open Water Swimmers was the group that made this happen. It was great to see how the swim attracted such a different range of people of different ages.
“The instructors that work with Donegal Sports Partnership in delivering the open water swim programme are key in the process of giving the swimmers the confidence and knowhow to take on challenges like this,” she added.
“The instructors support the swimmers so well the whole way through and we’re so fortunate to have them. There’s a great buzz about today. Rathmullan is a lovely beach with great people and great facilities. It’s a great event to be part of.”
The results from Saturday are as follows:
Inch Mile Swim Festival – Overall winner, Mark Mallett.
Wetsuit category, male – 1. Mark Mallett. 2. Finn Doherty. 3. Ronan Dorrian.
Wetsuit category, female – 1. Clara Doherty. 2. Jamie Freud. 3. Aisling Cooney
Skins category, male – 1. Shane McCauley. 2 Grant Carroll. 3. Gary Knox.
Skins category, female – Julie Murphy. 2. Eve Mallett. 3. Lean Mallett.
Male category – 1. Paulo Guidi. 2. Darren Boyle. 3. Joseph Guidi.