Belfast Telegraph

Warm welcome for celebrity swimmers

Five intrepid celebrities have received a warm Irish welcome after coming ashore from their epic fundraising swim across the Irish Sea.

Olympic medallist swimmer Steve Parry led pop star Ronan Keating, TV presenters Jenny Frost and Jason Bradbury, and Strictly star Pamela Stephenson out of the choppy water as they toasted their adventure with hot whiskey.

The Boyzone frontman hugged and kissed his wife Yvonne and looked relieved to be back on dry land. "It was daunting, it was frightening," he said. "As we went along we all found our rhythm and pace - the deep ocean swim was tough, your imagination was running away with you. But it's a euphoric feeling."

The five-strong team touched land on a beach just north of Wicklow pier at 8.18am, 35 hours after jumping into the sea off Holyhead in Anglesey, North Wales, at 9pm on Tuesday night.

The 56 nautical mile (65 land mile) charity relay was in aid of Cancer Research UK. They had intended coming ashore at the popular bathing spot immortalised by James Joyce, the Forty Foot in Sandycove, south Dublin, but were pushed 20 miles off course by strong tides.

They were then brought by boat to the beach, also favoured by nude swimmers, where family, friends and fans had gathered since sunrise. Keating, who dodged huge jellyfish and was worried about basking sharks in 151m deep sea, added: "It's the toughest challenge I've ever come up against."

Stephenson said the crossing had been terrifying and challenging, but rewarding.

"We set off in the dark, it was just all your worst fears - the darkness, the cold, the fears of the unknown, but the Irish Sea was actually fantastic to us. It was amazing to leave one country and put your feet down in another country."

Keating came up with the idea with Sir Richard Branson, who was also due to take part in the relay but pulled out at the weekend after his Caribbean home on Necker Island burned to the ground.

The celebrities were helped by five "super swimmers" and while at sea each member of the relay was expected to swim for one hour until arriving in Dublin after an estimated 40 hours. They hope to raise more than £1 million for Cancer Research.

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