DUP councillor part of team hoping to swim across Belfast Lough

The swimmers practising for the challenge against the backdrop of Carrickfergus Castle
The swimmers practising for the challenge against the backdrop of Carrickfergus Castle
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A team of swimmers will aim to cross Belfast Lough from Helen’s Bay to Carrickfergus in what is believed to be the first traversal of its kind.

Carrickfergus councillor Peter Johnston is one of six swimming enthusiasts who will take part in the charity challenge this evening, which will see them cross the main shipping lane to Belfast.

DUP councillor Peter Johnston is the youngest of the six swimmers

DUP councillor Peter Johnston is the youngest of the six swimmers

Peter, 29 and the youngest of the swimmers, said: “As far as I’m aware there was a guy who swam a slightly shorter crossing from Whiteabbey. I think we’re the first to do the crossing from Helen’s Bay to Carrick.

“There’s a lot has gone into ensuring this can run well and run safely, it’s not just a matter of turning up on the day.

“We had to get permission to cross the shipping channel. There’s an extensive risk assessment we’ve had to submit as well.

“It all started probably a year and half ago when I did my first triathlon in Carrick. Since then I decided I’d love to swim across the lough.”

The DUP councillor is joined by Mark Loughridge, Bobbie Philips, Anthony Bannon, Michael Nugent and David McConnell – all experienced swimmers and triathletes.

They plan to leave Grey Point, Helen’s Bay at 5.30pm and swim across Belfast Lough to the shore next to Carrickfergus Castle, covering approximately 3.75 nautical miles (7kms).

Of the differences between swimming in a pool and in the sea, Peter said: “In a pool the water is 30 degrees. In Belfast Lough the water can get as cold as seven degrees.

“We’ll be wearing wetsuits and we’ll swim with a tow float which is an inflatable buoy that attaches onto the back of you. There will be two safety boats as well and we’ll be wearing hi-vis.

“We’ve put in a lot of measures to make sure it’s as safe as possible, but it’s still a dangerous swim, going across a shipping channel.

“When you’re in the sea you’re subject to the weather, the waves and the currents. If on the day the conditions aren’t right we’ll make the call that it’s too dangerous. We won’t be taking any unnecessary risks.”

Also this evening an aquathon will start at 7pm from Fisherman’s Quay in Carrick which has been planned to tie in with the Belfast Lough swim.

Organiser Gary Davison said: “This consists of a 750m swim along the front from Fisherman’s Quay to the castle, followed by a 5km run around the promenade.

“It is hoped that the aquathon will be finished in time for everyone to cheer the six swimmers doing the Belfast Lough swim.”

The events are to raise money for a children’s home in Kolkata, India, the Children’s Cancer Fund for Northern Ireland and Belfast Lough Sailability (BLS).