A Portstewart woman will attempt a lifelong dream to swim from Donegal to Portstewart this summer.
Heather Clatworthy will take on the 13 mile challenge - the equivalent of at least 900 lengths of Coleraine’s 25 metre pool- to raise funds for the RNLI and the Portstewart Outdoor Recreation Fund.
Heather has launched a website swimforportstewart.com and “hopes to raise as much money as possible” for the charities. Her target is £1,000 but her firt objective witll be to complete the swim.
She says: “Since I was a little girl growing up in Portstewart, sitting on the strand beach, twiddling the sand between my toes, I have looked across the sea to Donegal and wanted to swim to the other side.
“The idea became a possibility when I read about a girl who had swam it in 1929 called Mercedez Gleitze.
“Now at the age of 33, I have decided that it’s now or never, and in July 2016, I plan to attempt the swim.”
A professional working wife (to Ian) and mother of two, Lilly 5, and Basil 1, Heather admits she doesn’t know if she can complete the epic swim.
“That’s what makes this a genuine challenge, and if I dont try I will never know. Currently, I am the fittest, for swimming, that I have ever been in my entire life, and I feel that if I did the swim today, I would probably make it half way before climbing on the boat.
“ That is why I have a training plan, and a lot of great friends and professionals on board to help me prepare myself the best I can both physically and mentally.
“If at any point in the swim I feel I need to quit, I will stop and get on the boat. “
The swim will officially be observed and recorded by the Irish Long Distance Association (ILDSA) and I have a team there for me along the way.
She also points out that she may have to swim more than the 13 miles to complete the feat.
“It’s also very unlikely to be that short, as with the tides and currents around that area, I will swim quite a zig zagged route increasing the distance of the swim.
“I also need to take into account the fast flowing waters of the River Foyle and the River Bann which I will cross en route.”
As part of her research into the project, Heather was enthralled by the story of “an inspirational, and incredibly brave woman”, called Merecedz Gleitze, who completed the swim in 1929.
Heather, revealed: “She was from Brighton, England and was commisioned to complete the swim by the Town Clerk of Portstewart Urban Council to boost tourism.
“The funds she raised established homes for homeless families in England.
“She went on to wear the first ever Rolex waterproof watch, around her neck when crossing the English Channel.
The day I found out she was one of the world’s best swimmers,I almost threw the towel in, but iIve decided that its not going to stop me, and I have it in me to complete it and I want to try.
“I am honoured to be in touch with her daughter, and I cannot wait to meet her.
“This was a recorded swim, and it is for this reason I wish to recreate her exact route entering the water at Shrove beach, and hopefully exiting at Bearneville Port (by The Ice House) in Portstewart on the coastal path.
“I have also heard of two other swimmers who may have completed this swim over the years but have not been successful as yet getting in touch with them or finding out where they swam from and too and how they got on.”
Although Heather swam for the renowned Coleraine Swimming Club and Coleraine High School team in her youth, she says she is not a professional swimmer.
She has been training for six months already and has another seven left.
The highlights of her training to date have included summer evenings in Lake Windermere and a pottle up the River Trent with a channel swimmer.
She trains in the evenings after her children are in bed.
“ No matter what age I have been I have many vivid memories of spending hours in the sea, on the beach, in rockpools, in the harbour.
“I find swimming very relaxing, theraputic and fun. It is such a healthy, cheap and accessible sport.
“I live in England now. Every time I go to Portstewart, I love it.
“I feel lucky to have had such a great upbringing there and would love others to experience the same
“I want to give something back to Portstewart by encouraging everyone to try something new outside and to love everything Portstewart has to offer them.”
To support Heather visit swimforportstewart.com or uk.virginmoney/heatherclatworthy or e mail email@example.com or @seaswimheather on Twitter.