Gordy’s epic swim through huge jellyfish in North Channel in aid of Hospice

Gordon Hamill
Gordon Hamill

At 44, Gordy Hamill has many achievements under his belt but swimming the North Channel on Tuesday could be his toughest yet.

Weather permitting, if the Lurgan man succeeds, he will be just the 10th Irish person in history to do it.

Spanning 22 miles between NI and Scotland, it is one of the coldest stretches of water attempted by long distance swimmers, at least 2-3 degrees colder than the English Channel.

But the only thing Gordy is seriously concerned about it the jellyfish.

They aren’t just any old jellyfish. Due to the warm weather this year the Lionsmane jellyfish have grown to unprecedented sizes and what once where a painfull hinderance have now become in some cases a show stopper.

Gordy, who now lives in Laurencetown, said: “I trained with the Hungarian Atilla Manyoki. Atilla was stopped and hospitalised by them on the same swim, which has added to the physchological difficulty of the swim.

“To qualify I had to swim for eight and a half hours in sub 12 degrees. In the build up to this I have competed in the Irish Ice swimming championships where we swim 1km in water sub 5 degrees- where the ice has just been broken before the swim. “My swim has caught the imagination of the open water swimming community as it is unheard of for a swimmer so new to the sport to qualify for the north channel.

“As my attempt has gathered momentum some of the top channelists in the world have stepped in to help me as they were impressed by me having the guts to go for something which is normally the preserve of swimmmers with 20 years experience. To that end the world record holder for the north channel Keith Garry and former World open water swimmer of the year Padraig Mallon, and also this years Irish open water swimmer of the year Chris Judge have been hothousing me over 17 hour training weeks to do this. They will also be on my boat crew,” said Gordy who drove a 125 scooter to the pool at 6am in winter mornings to save towards this goal.

Gordon, a former pupil of Lismore Comprehensive, revealed that after his cousin died following severe depression he decided to run the Dublin Marathon in his memory, to raise cash for the Samaritans and to get fit.

Since then he got into triathalons in aid of PIPS and from there open air swimming.

One of his most amazing feats was swimming across Lough Neagh, a feat which was captured on video by the Lurgan Mail.

Gordon said: “I swam across Lough Neagh for Children in Crossfire which was a 12 mile swim and raised £4,000.

“Some people commented that I was wearing a wet suit. so being a stubborn git I did it again in my togs.

“This brought me into the sphere and attention of some famous Irish channel swimmers. I was doing OK for someone with no swimming technique, I had never been coached, apart from my Da teaching me the doggy paddle in Brownlow pool.

“They told me to try the Channel and they would help me with technique and anything I needed. That’s just what the open water community is like.

“The English channel is easier than the North Channel but was expensive and beyond my reach, and if your going to do a channe, you might as well do the toughest.

“Only 52 people in history have done the north channel. My coach Chris Judge was the 52nd amd I aim to be the 53rd person in history and only 10th Irishman to do the 25 cold jellyfished miles.

“It has been estimated that by the time I get in the water in Donaghadee I will have swam around 1000 km this year alone in training.

“I have been training for two years already for this. In January 2018 I had a major confidence boost by completing a full kilometre in icewater (3 degrees) in the Irish open ice swimming championships. I was placed in the top ten in the event which draws swimmers froom all over the world.

“This swim will be for the Southern Area Hospice in Newry but also as a message to others to never ever give in to depression, speak to people, open up.

“It is also in memory of my Aunt Viv who fought her own battle so hard for so long against cancer.”

If you would like to donate, check out www.justgiving.com/fundraising/gordon-hamill2