A South African man is hoping to make a splash by becoming the first person to swim a notorious stretch of sea off the north coast — despite confessing he isn’t a great swimmer.
Wayne Soutter faces over 10 miles of bone-chilling water, gripping currents, towering waves and abundance of huge jelly fish when he embarks on the gruelling challenge between the Mull of Kintyre and Torr Head in Ballycastle.
If successful, it is believed he will become the first person to ever swim between the two points — indeed the first to ever have attempted the particular stretch — and expects it to take between eight and 10 hours.
He is due to undertake the swim on Sunday, the eve of the Lammas Fair in Ballycastle when market stalls will be setting up for the annual festival.
The 43-year-old, originally from South Africa but currently living and working in London, isn’t sure exactly how long the swim will take but is determined to conquer the dangerous stretch.
The dad-of-two, who heads up a computer software company, has been testing his stamina to the limits with a hectic training schedule and has just returned from the south of France following an intense programme.
On a recent visit to north Antrim, he completed a one-hour swim just off Torr Head to gauge currents and test his resilience to searing jelly fish stings.
If all goes to plan he will set off before 11am on Sunday.
Speaking of his recent dip in the north coast waters, he said: “It was as expected, fairly cold but working hard enough you managed to keep warm, so it warmed up quite quickly.
“What was a little unexpected was the huge number of jellyfish I saw, about one jellyfish every minute.
“Now and again some of them were closer to the surface and I had to swim around them.
“The water was good for a fairly calm day, but sometimes we got into a bit of rough water and that made hard work of it. Overall it was good — I’m encouraged.”
Back in 2010, Wayne was the 813th person to swim across the Channel, raising £3,000 for Sparrow Schools Educational Trust in South Africa and he now hopes to raise £5,000 for local Community Rescue Services.
He said: “I wanted to make a difference socially and face a personal challenge at the same time.
“I found the solution in my decision to swim the English Channel and raise funds for Sparrow Schools Educational Trust by obtaining sponsorship for the swim online.
“This was an incredible plan as I’m not a professional swimmer, in fact I’m not even a very strong swimmer, and swimming slowly makes the Channel swim more difficult. I don’t have any experience in endurance events either.
“There is only a small window of opportunity in which the swim can be made and, because of this, there is complex tidal data to take into consideration, missing the window could result in me having to swim against the powerful current and call off the 10.5 mile swim.
“If the weather and condition are right, the swim will commence.”
A venture laden with perils and challenges
By Nuala Moore
The distance from the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland across Rathlin Sound to Ballycastle is 10 miles. The tides of Rathlin Sound have a lot of overfalls, tidal rapids and indecision as which way to run as this body of water enters the North Channel and heads south past Fairhead.
Although Wayne will be swimming on a relatively low tide, the power of these currents will still be there and wind will play a huge part in his journey.
Timing will integral for the crossing and Rathlin has a way of changing in a flash with water temperatures averaging 12 to 13c. The first few hours is what we all train for, time in the water and the ability to take on hypothermic challenges, training to acclimatise is necessary.
Nuala Moore is a member of the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association