00:00 Saturday 29 October 2011  Written by Philip O'Regan

Toughest swim yet for Steve

Steve Redmond successfully completed the fourth leg of the Ocean's Seven Challenge

By Philip O'Regan

STEVE Redmond successfully negotiated the fourth leg of the Ocean's Seven Challenge on Thursday last, October 20th, when he completed the Catalina Channel swim in California.

This swim of the channel between Santa Catalina Island and Los Angeles, California, USA, was, according to Steve, the hardest yet and was the 'worst experience of my life'.

A number of things seemed to conspire to make life difficult for Steve this time out. His greatest complication was the fact that his stomach cramped up early in the swim and Steve couldn't digest his food. At one point during the swim Steve stopped up and treaded water for up to fifteen minutes. Then, from somewhere, he found the reserves of energy - physical and emotional - to carry on and complete the swim.

Complicating factor

Another complicating factor for Steve was that the swim took place at night and he found it quite disconcerting to swim in the dark.

For most of Steve's swims, he starts as early in the morning as he can to avail of light and heat, but in California the conditions in the sea are much calmer at night.

Steve did the swim in a time of 12 hours, 37 minutes and became the first Irishman to complete the Catalina Channel swim, and one of only two men who have successfully completed the North, English and Catalina Channel swims.

While Steve's training schedule for the swim had gone very well, including his extraordinary 26-mile swim around the Fastnet on August 17th, the Catalina Channel swim was a huge challenge.

Because of limited resources, Steve travelled to California only on Tuesday last and so had little time to recover properly from the long journey and, most critically, had barely enough time to rehydrate properly following the long flight. Steve's brother, Anthony, travelled with him and that was the sum total of the travelling party.

Steve is very grateful for the reception and all the help he got in California. In particular, Skibbereen man Brian Carmody did a huge amount of work for Steve in establishing contacts and putting in place many of the arrangements and dealing with some of the logistics for the swim.

Hawaii

Although Steve felt pretty awful after Catalina, he has decided to go ahead with plans to cross America and try and complete his fifth swim in the Oceans Seven Challenge. On Wednesday night he was to attempt the Molokai Channel swim in Hawaii.

At the best of times this is a daunting task, but with so little recovery time this is a huge ask, even for a man with Steve Redmond's extraordinary capacity and resilience. This 27-mile swim is across a deep-water channel with exceptionally strong currents in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and aggressive marine life. A big change for Steve also will be that it is very warm water, far from what he is used to.

The Ocean's Seven Challenge a swim of the world's most difficult channels is 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 now completed four of the swims and hopefully by Thursday morning five of the swims.

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.

The Cook Strait in New Zealand, and the Tsugaru Strait, which is the channel between Honshu and Hokkaido in northern Japan, connecting the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean, are the other two challenges. However, the water in the Tsugaru Strait is presently contaminated with nuclear material since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March, so there may be some delay there.

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