There’s nothing like a night-time dip in the briny as Dervla Ireland discovered after getting the green light to swim the English Channel.
The junior doctor from Ealing Hospital was part of a six-person relay team whose crossing had been deferred because of adverse weather conditions.
“We finally got the nod at 10.30pm on Sunday. I can’t say I recommend night-time swimming in the channel. It’s cold, wet and you can’t see where you are going.
“You bump into all sorts in the water and I’m pretty sure I swam into a jellyfish but luckily it hit my swimming cap and slide off without stinging me.”
Dervla swam two one hour sessions while the accompanying boat did its best to serve up the team’s Sunday dinners to a hungry sea.
She began training a year ago but faced serious disruption when the second lockdown saw swimming pools and group activities suspended but managed to stay in shape by cycling and running, despite the punishing workload of working on a covid ward.
Dervla found a novel way to acclimatise to the bracing waters of the channel by taking increasingly long cold showers and baths to toughen her up.
“One of the toughest things about night swimming is you have nothing to look at so the hour passed very slowly. My second session was at dawn and we were accompanied a lot of the way by someone making a separate solo attempt.”
The Aspire Bulldogs needed all their tenacity to complete the 21 mile crossing which stretched to an arm-aching 31 miles with the drift of the current.
“I’d like to say we celebrated but we were so tired we feel asleep on the trip back.”
Dervla was raising money for Aspire, a charity that helps people with life changing spinal injuries regain their independence. She recently returned to her native Devon and we wish her all the best.