Simon Fullerton ready to take the plunge in the icy waters of North Channel
Belfast-born marathon man Simon Fullerton has vowed to go ahead with his attempt to swim the treacherous North Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland, days after an American grandmother abandoned her bid.
Simon (39), who has already swum the Channel from England to France, has been training for the 21-mile challenge from Orlock Point near Groomsport to Portpatrick with regular six-mile stints in the sea around Co Down and Co Antrim.
And he had to fight through the pain after receiving serious jellyfish stings off Groomsport on Tuesday, when he found that the much vaunted cure involving 'spending a penny' didn't work.
He said: "It was agony, but the pain eventually went away and I was able to go up to the north coast for a seven-hour swim on Wednesday"
Earlier this week 64-year-old Pat Gallant-Charette went home to Maine after sea conditions made it impossible to start her journey to Scotland, which was to have been part of her attempt to complete the Ocean's Seven challenge of finishing the world's seven toughest swims.
The Irish Long Distance Swimming Association says the North Channel swim has been attempted 80 times but only 29 people have made it. But Simon, a London-based writer and entertainer, is determined to conquer what is reckoned to be the most difficult of all the channel swims because of the cold, the currents and the aforementioned jellyfish. "I'm all ready to go," said the former pupil of Campbell College. "I have been swimming in really cold water just to get used to the conditions. I was swimming off Portrush in -2 degrees in December. But I'm praying for a nice calm day with the sun on my back across to Scotland."
This week Simon hasn't experienced the normal loneliness of the long distance swimmer, because he has had two fellow adventurers in the water with him.
Rohan More from Maharashtra in India is training to swim the North Channel to complete the Ocean's Seven challenge, and Sussex DJ Jeffrey Louis-Reed decided to swim the English Channel after being part of Simon's crew on the crossing to France last August.
Simon is waiting for the right tide to take the plunge next Friday, but it may be two or three days before conditions are suitable.
"The reason for not getting across can be as simple as the tide not doing what you want it to do", said Simon, who insists success is down to the skills of the pilot who guides swimmers across.
"It's all about the knowledge of the pilot because it is a much more complicated tidal system than the English Channel, which is comparatively predictable.
"But I have the best pilot in Quinton Nelson from Bangor."
Simon, who raised thousands of pounds from his English Channel swim for Parkinson's disease research in honour of his late grandfather, hopes to provide similar help for a charity set up in memory of his mentor Mike Moloney, co-founder of the Prison Arts Foundation, who died in a tragic accident at his home two years ago.
Simon is aiming to raise up to £10,000 for Mike's fund, which provides arts bursaries for prisoners after they are freed from jail.