October 24th, 2016

Irish sea swim is a ‘dream come true’

Updated: 9:37 am, Aug 19, 2016

EVEN the dolphins turned out to watch a Leamington charity worker take on a gruelling swim off the coast of Ireland – which hasn’t been attempted in nearly 90 years.

Mum-of-two Heather Clatworthy had always dreamed of swimming the 13 miles across the sea from Donegal to her childhood hometown of Portstewart, Londonderry.

And her dream came true when she took to the waters of Atlantic and battled the strong current to complete the swim in four hours 15 minutes – nearly half the time she expected.

The 34-year-old told the Observer: “It took so much planning so knew I’d only have the one shot and just went for it.

“It was amazing and incredibly satisfying. It wasn’t just a swim, it was a lifetime dream.

“It was even more special because a shoal of dolphins followed me for about an hour, they were jumping out of the water. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in that area of Donegal for years.”

Heather – who works for an equestrian charity in Stoneleigh and spent every lunchtime running five miles to prepare for the swim – practiced in Warwick, Kenilworth and Leamington pools. To acclimatise to the 15 degree temperature she also swam in the Avon.

And she decided to contact the daughter of the late English channel swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, who first took on the challenge in 1929.

It turned out much had changed from swimming the distance all those years ago.

Heather said: “Mercedes’ daughter is 81 years-old and flew out from England to see me swim.

“I learnt amazing things from her, like how her mum played a gramophone on a boat next to her as the swim is so monotonous.

“She also kept pigeons on the boat so she could keep people on the shore updated with her progress. It was amazing and so interesting to hear.”

The swim was a way for Heather to raise money for the RNLI and a Portstewart recreational charity.

She has so far raised some £5,000 but is still looking for donations.

Visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/heather.clatworthy to donate.