North West Wales

Irish Sea Swim: Ronan Keating is half way to Dublin

Thirty miles out from Holyhead, student Nikki Fraser from south Yorkshire - and support
Image caption Thirty miles out from Holyhead, student Nikki Fraser from south Yorkshire - one of the five super swimmers - and support

A team of celebrities are halfway through their gruelling charity swim across the Irish Sea from Holyhead to Dublin.

Boyzone's Ronan Keating, Atomic Kitten singer Jenny Frost and Strictly Come Dancing star Pamela Stephenson, have already completed their second relay in the 56-mile swim for Cancer Research.

The 11-strong team set off for Dublin at 21:00 BST on Tuesday.

Organisers tweeted on Wednesday lunchtime that they have swum 28 miles.

The challenge could take 40 hours.

Just before 18:00 on Wednesday, the team on Facebook reported: "Amazing weather conditions and fantastic swimming by all of our swimmers means we are happy to say we're on schedule!"

The celebrities have had to battle giant jellyfish during their marathon fundraising effort.

'Alien-like' jellyfish

Speaking during a break, Keating said he was mostly spending his hour-long stints swallowing sea water and avoiding "alien-like" jellyfish.

"I'm not one of the advanced swimmers so I'm concentrating on my swimming, my breathing and keeping my body moving," he added.

"We were warned about the Lion's Mane jellyfish but there are hundreds and it's frightening when they are right there sitting in front of you.

"You gasp and lose your breath but you've just got to keep moving. Thank God we haven't seen any sharks, I'm very happy about that."

At 13.30 BST the team tweeted for Keating, saying: "The swimming has been incredibly tough, but the whole team are pushing through and are determined to make it to Dublin."

Keating, who lost his mother to cancer, swam freestyle on Wednesday morning, weaving his way through the boats moored in Holyhead harbour.

Alongside him, as with all the swimmers, was a safety canoe and support boat.

Keating added: "We're pretty much half way across the Irish Sea now.

"It's an amazing feeling to think at nine o'clock last night we were in Holyhead, it was so daunting.

"I've never been in the sea at night time before, and stepping into the cold water, it took me a minute to catch my breath.

"I was a little panicky, but kind of emotional too. I just had to dive in and it was incredible.

"We've talked about it for 12 months but it was finally happening, it was an incredible moment."

Local boat owners, and the RNLI team, also brought their vessels out, blasting their horns in encouragement.

The team's Twitter page said: "The #samsungswim team has reached the halfway point! Only 28 miles to Dublin!"

Keating, 34, swam for about 20 minutes before a goggle-wearing Frost took over the relay.

As she lowered herself into the water the call was made for Keating to be allowed back on to the support boat.

Tide breakers

Frost, guided by light from the safety boat, took the team further towards the tide breakers.

After about 15 minutes Stephenson took over, using goggles and a snorkel.

She took to the water with a surprisingly cheerful "Hello Roger" to the safety canoeist.

A message on the team's Facebook page said: "They are a quarter of the way through and it's full steam ahead to Dublin."

Image caption Ronan Keating was the first to swim in the marathon challenge

Once at sea, each of the swimmers are to take turns swimming for one hour until the arduous task is complete.

As well as swimming through the night in darkness, they will also have to dodge wind farms and cope with tidal variations which mean the swimmers could end up covering a distance of up to 70 nautical miles, equal to 81 land miles (130km).

Keating came up with the idea with Sir Richard Branson, who was due to take part in the relay but pulled out at the weekend after fire destroyed his Caribbean home.

Temperatures in the sea over the next few days are expected to be a mild 12-14C, a spokeswoman for Meteogroup said.

A band of high pressure over the area should also lessen wind speeds and calm the waves on the notoriously choppy stretch of water.

But while the weather appears to be favouring the swimmers, other potential dangers lurk in the deep.

At least 30 species of shark are known to pass through the Irish Sea, including the enormous basking shark, the world's second largest fish.

Also taking part in the challenge, which aims to raise £1m for the cancer charity, is Olympic medallist swimmer Steve Parry, gadget guru Jason Bradbury and five "super swimmers".

Liverpool-born Parry, who won bronze at the Athens Olympics in 2004, was diagnosed with testicular cancer 18 months ago, three weeks after getting married.

Speaking earlier, the 34-year-old said: "The size of the task ahead is just starting to dawn on me.

"It's cold, we'll be swimming in the dark, there are jellyfish and other creatures and it's a long way."

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