The black Castle swim has been running now for close to 50 years and without doubt, its my favourite swim on the Wicklow Swimming Club's calendar. Not that it is long or anything like that. Its just the unknown and the scenery, strong currents, seaweed, seals, sea chop etc.
The swim takes place from a small beach, traveller hawk, right beside an old castle ruin, the black castle. There is a steep set of steps down to the beach and when you look up you see the remaining walls of the castle. As normal the swim is handicapped with the slowest going off first.
My handicap was 6mins. I was happy with that. I was heading off with Declan Marnane and Nora Dunne. Declan is a better swimmer than me but I though if I could stick to his feet you never know what might happen.
Luck was on our side, the current was with us and their was no chop on the water. Declan, Nora and myself got in and ready to go. We all left and swam side by side for the first minute, then Declan and myself went slightly ahead of Nora and I slipped in behind Declan. I stuck as close as I could to draft off his feet. In fact I slapped them a few times. I apologised after!!
The swim is not long, approx. 700m but its fast. I stayed with Declan right until the first buoy which was situated on the left hand side of some rocks which were protruding due to the low tide. As we approached the buoy another swimmer came between Declan and myself and so the draft was broken and I was left to fend for myself. I was breathing to the left so could see the pier easily. The sun was low so it was a little bright on the eyes but didn't effect visibility too much.
I headed straight for the pier end, what I thought was the shortest route. A lot of people swam in close to and along the pier as they feel that this is the fastest route. I passed a few people along the way and 1 or 2 passed me. I knew I wasn't going to win but felt I was up there at least. At the pier, you turn left and left again and then its a 150m swim to the finish, although from here it is against the tide as it was flowing out of the river and north. After the initial turn left, it got slightly difficult, I got stuck in and got to the next left, then moved out slightly and tried to up my swim rate to finish strong. I passed a few and got passed. It was tough and hot. Once we turned in the pier the temperature increased within the harbour. It was rank! I pushed and pushed and finished strong, happy with my race.
And would you believe it Declan had won!! I was delighted for him as it has been years since he had a win and the black castle is a prestigious race to win. He was really surprised himself. He said he turned into the final straight and just gave it all, thinking he would be passed at any time. After drying off, we headed for the obligatory pint and waited for the prize giving and results. I came in 17th in a swim time of 13.59mins 35 seconds behind Declan and only 7 seconds ahead of Nora. It was a great result for me as Declan has been swimming a min ahead of me in the other swims of similar length. That was the last swim for me this year with the Sea swim club as I'm off on my holidays Sunday. Wahey.