Greystones residents Ger Devin and Douglas Ribeiro, and Corinna Nolan, who lives in Newtownmountkennedy and is a swimming teacher for Enable Ireland in Bray, were all among the winners, crowning an incredible year for the trio in which they each completed one of Ireland’s three most iconic marathon swims.
In September Douglas and Corinna swam the 35-odd kilometres of the North Channel from Donaghdee in Northern Ireland to Scotland, ticking off Ireland’s toughest open water swim and the only one that features on the global Oceans Seven Challenge.
For those efforts, they were crowned Senior Female and Male Best Newcomer of the Year at the Rose Hotel, where they also received awards and official recognition for their North Channel swims.
Already synonymous with cold water swimming and endurance sports, the swim was a natural progression for Corinna, but Douglas, who is from Brazil, only came to Ireland three years ago with his daughter.
He was introduced to cold water swimming just last year and is now the first male swimmer from Brazil to complete the North Channel, which he trained for while studying for a PhD.
Each swimmer was achieving a hard-fought personal goal, but both were also fundraising for causes close to their hearts, Corinna raising more than €20,000 for Enable Ireland, after her initial total was matched by a generous donor, and Doug raising nearly €2,000 for Jigsaw, the youth mental health charity.
Both swimmers were also supported on their North Channel crossings by Wicklow Swimming Club coach Lisa Howley, adding to the local success.
Victory came for Ger Devin in the Sheena Paterson Spirit of Open Water Swimming Award, which he received in recognition for his tireless promotion of and fundraising for Greystones charity the Gavin Glynn Foundation, which supports families who have children going through cancer.
He says that knowing the stories of these children and writing their names on his swimming caps is what gets him through his long distance swims. Whenever he feels tired or in pain, he remembers that those children cannot even attempt the swim. He remembers he is privileged to be feeling tired and in pain doing something he loves, not through cancer.
Through his effort he has raised more than €30,000 for the foundation.
He is one of the founding members of the Gavin Glynn Foundation Swim Team, and has supported numerous swimmers in their endeavours under the TGGF banner, particularly via his King of Greystones Triathlon Team.
This is a group of 20 people who have never done a triathlon that Ger and his fellow volunteer coaches trains for free to help them complete the triathlon which the team is named after.
They choose 20 new candidates each year and since 2018 Ger has inspired, helped and motivated more than 100 individuals to achieve their swimming goal and more, all on a voluntary basis for the Gavin Glynn Foundation.
Ger is also an integral volunteer for the ILDSA and Dublin Swimming Club and an accomplished marathon swimmer, receiving official recognition on Saturday for this year’s big test the Fastnet Island swim, which led to him completing the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming as he has also completed the English Channel, Catalina Island in California and the 48km Manhattan Island Swim in New York.
He says that next summer he has the North Channel in his sights, which, if completed, would mean he has ticked off three swims on the Oceans Seven Challenge, with Catalina and the English Channel also featuring.
Corinna and Douglas have not yet revealed what their next targets are, but maintain their North Channel swims, though gruelling and littered with lionsmane jellyfish, were the most enjoyable of their lives. It’s likely more marathon swims are in their futures.
To cap a memorable night for Wicklow swimmers, the Leinster Open Sea Series, which includes events organised in Wicklow by Wicklow Swimming Club, was crowned Best Open Water Swimming Event of the Year.
In addition, Dublin swimmers Dave Berry, John Curley and Patricia Heffernan, who would be well-known to Wicklow swimmers, each took home top awards.
Patricia, who is deaf, was crowned female Senior Swimmer of the Year, after ticking off four marathon swims, namely Galway Bay, Fastnet Island, Kish Lighthouse and Dun Laoghaire to Howth.
She has unfinished business with the English Channel too, but did not dwell on that on the night, being quick to praise the ILDSA for providing a professional sign language interpreter so that she, and those watching the livestream, could understand fully all the achievements being celebrated.
Dave, who piloted Patricia’s swim from Kish Lighthouse to Poolbeg, was crowned male Leinster Swimmer of the Year, not only for completing eight marathon swims, but also helping others achieve their goals by piloting 13 swims and crewing on countless more.
In the last two years he has ticked four of the Oceans Seven Challenge swims off – the North, Catalina and English Channels, and the Gibraltar Strait – and completed the Irish triple crown – Fastnet Island, Galway Bay and the North Channel. He’s also completed the Triple Crown – Manhattan Island, Catalina and the English Channel – and the original Triple Crown – the English, British and North Channels.
A producer and director for RTÉ, Dave carries his camera on every training swim, showcasing his fellow swimmers and seals on Instagram via @openwater_snap.
His Sandycove Swimming and Water Polo Club team mate John was given the Shane Moraghan Award, which is presented to the Irish person who has achieved the most impressive swim outside of Ireland, with extra credit given for longest distance, difficulty, a first ever swim, step up from the swimmer’s previous best.
John’s swim that won him the award was his 41km crossing o Monterey Bay in the Pacific Ocean off the coast off California, but this year he also completed at North Channel crossing, and achieved the Bristol Channel swim in the UK. He hopes to add the English Channel to his CV next year.