00:00 Saturday 03 September 2011  Written by Philip O'Regan

Steve Redmond the first man to complete the 26-mile Baltimore-Fastnet-Schull Swim

THEY said it couldn't be done!

Steve Redmond reckoned it could and he was the one who was going to do it first.

On Wednesday August 17th, Ballydehob swimmer Steve Redmond entered the water off the slip at Baltimore pier, swam around the Fastnet Rock and then into Schull a quite astonishing feat of endurance.

The 26-mile swim took 13 hours and 25 minutes. Steve's course was south of Sherkin, south of Cape Clear, he had to keep about two miles off Cape, around the Fastnet and on past Long Island Bay into Schull. This is a world first, no one has ever done this swim before.

This was Steven's fourth attempt at the swim this summer, on each previous occasion the swim had to be postponed because conditions were unsuitable. Conditions have to be just right for such an undertaking as the seas and tides around the islands, and especially around the Fastnet, can be treacherous.

All the received wisdom was that this swim couldn't be done. Local fishermen and sailors who know these waters, reckoned Steve was daft to even attempt it. But Steve had this one in his sights for quite some time and was determined to give it a go. And when Steve is determined to do something, it usually gets done.

Back at the end of September 2009 Steve swam from the Fastnet Lighthouse to Schull, that was some 12 miles.

The Baltimore-Fastnet-Schull swim was a training swim for Steve's next leg of his attempt to complete the famous Ocean's Seven Challenge a swim of the world's most difficult channels, something that has never been achieved. Ocean's Seven is the marathon swimming equivalent of the mountain climbing challenge, Seven Summits. Steve is aiming to be the first man to complete the Ocean's Seven Challenge and has already completed three of the swims.

In October, Steve will travel to California where he will attempt to swim the Catalina Channel. Should Steve be successful here, he will have completed four of the seven swims in the Ocean's Seven Challenge.

In 2009 he did the English Channel. On August 31st 2010 he did the gruelling North Channel swim, from Portpatrick, near Larne in Scotland, to Blackhead, north of Belfast Harbour, in a time of 17 hours and 17 minutes. At the time, just four individuals had completed that swim and only two had done it at the first attempt.

In April this year, Steve completed the third of the challenges, swimming the Strait of Gibraltar. In October he hopes to put challenge number four behind him by completing a swim of the Catalina Channel.

He will then turn his attention to putting in place plans for the remaining three swims the Molokai Channel in Hawaii, the Cook Strait in New Zealand, and finally the Tsugaru Strait, which is the channel between Honshu and Hokkaido in northern Japan, connecting the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean. This water is presently contaminated with nuclear material since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, so there may be some delay there.

Steve Redmond is a quietly-spoken, gentle and unassuming man. But when speaking of the recent Baltimore-Fastnet-Schull swim, he can barely contain himself and gets as animated as he is ever likely to get. There are a number of reasons for this. Of course, there's the enormous personal satisfaction of being the first man to complete such a feat. But what also excites Steve is the fact that this swim has been ratified and recognised by the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA) and Cork Master Swimming Association, and so he reckons it can become a popular long-distance swim. He believes it can become a more popular swim than the English Channel and reckons it is definitely a better swim, and could put West Cork on the map as a long-distance swimming destination.

The 26-mile swim is an extraordinary test of skill, stamina and endurance. Conditions have to be just perfect, with everything in the swimmer's favour. On August 17th Steve entered the water at 7.40am at high tide. He rounded the Fastnet at low tide and then swam with the making tide to Schull.

Steve said it was 'a beautiful day' for the swim, but even at that there were difficulties. For one, the water was much cooler that it would normally be in August and that takes a lot of energy from the body. Steve also had problems feeding. There was a lot of life in the water, he came across some sharks and numerous pods of dolphins along the way. There was also quite a lot of sailing traffic in the water.

The sea around the Fastnet Rock can be treacherous. The crossing of two tides there at all times make it notoriously dangerous and with other competing forces such as currents and winds, there are very few windows of opportunity for the swim. Steve was lucky on this occasion.

John Kearney's boat, Amy K, accompanied Steve on the swim and the crew were Kieran Collins of Baltimore Angling, skipper; Pat O'Driscoll was animator and feeder; Padraig Hayes was back-up swimmer and rescue swimmer, and Yvonne Kane was observer. Such is the precarious nature of the challenge, that at no stage during the entire swim was Steve out of sight of those on the boat. In waters off Cape Clear and around the Fastnet, a swimmer could be swept away in a split second.

There's an extraordinary amount of training and countless hours swimming done in preparation for these challenges, and Steve is quick to acknowledge and pay tribute to the support and back-up he gets from many people, most especially from his wife Ann and his family. He is also grateful to his employer, Skibbereen Tool Hire, for the support he receives.

Another problem Steve faces, of course, is that these challenges cost money. He does everything on an absolute shoestring budget, but the cost alone of going to California in October is onerous. There was a fundraising event at the Sibín Bar in Baltimore last week which raised some money, but Steve could really do with a good backer whose sponsorship would cover some of the costs.

Many people and companies have already supported Steve in his quest and he would particularly like to thank the following Skibbereen Tool Hire, Leslie Salter, Take Away; Atlantic Boating, Drinagh Co-op, Roycroft Cycles, Carbery Pre-cast, Field's, The Paragon Bar, Hourihane Sports, La Voyage Restaurant, Seymour Jewellers, Thornhill's, Walsh's Butcher, Annie May's Bar, The Church Restaurant, CH Marine, The Sibín Bar and Restaurant, Brian McCarthy, DJ; Dan Connolly Tractors, Lar O'Donovan Builders, Atlantic Sea Kayaking, Teddy Deasy Electrician, Rosie's Bar, Ballydehob, and Alan Seymour, Plastering.

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