Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 1 April 2020

Swimmers aim to conquer 'around-the-world' sea challenge in Dubai

Irishman Tom Lynch wants to attract international competitors to the first 28.5km Dubai swim

Irishman Tom Lynch and a team of swimmers aim to become the first people to swim around Dubai's World Islands. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Irishman Tom Lynch and a team of swimmers aim to become the first people to swim around Dubai's World Islands. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Sea snakes, strong currents and jellyfish lie in wait for a team of swimmers training to swim around the World Islands off Dubai.

The event was due to take place on April 3, but was postponed because of public health restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak.

A longer swim around the 300 islands, a route of about 30 kilometres, was planned by Irish open water swimmer Tom Lynch and is mooted to take place in November.

He said he hoped to complete a shorter test event before water temperatures rose.

“There are plenty of sea snakes around here, and jellyfish that may be an issue.”

Tom Lynch

“I’ve been trying to plan this since 2017,” said Mr Lynch, who began sea swimming at a young age off the Irish coast near Cork.

“The challenge here is to swim when the water temperature is not too high.

“We are looking at putting a relay together for the longer swim and we would like to attract some high-profile swimmers to take part.

“This is an unsupported swim, so we will abide by the rules of the Marathon Swimmers Federation.”

Once restrictions are lifted, swimmers for the shorter event will depart from Dubai Offshore Sailing Club and swim to the southern point of the World Islands, Antarctica.

The distance could extend to 30km because of tidal influence, which can push swimmers off course.

The plan is for the group to set off at about 5.45am and be accompanied by support vessels, but no contact can be made with them in accordance with marathon swimming rules.

To qualify, entrants must have completed a 4km sea swim in the three months before the event.

Other regulations restrict swimmers from using buoyancy aids or any other equipment other than a standard swimsuit, silicone cap, goggles and plugs for the ears and nose.

Swimmers cannot use the draft of support vessels, unless taking on fluid or food.

Tom Lynch (M) and Ralph Joyce (R).  Chris Whiteoak / The National
Tom Lynch (M) and Ralph Joyce (R).  Chris Whiteoak / The National

Warm-water endurance swimming is not without risks.

In October 2010, American swimmer Fran Crippen died during a 10km open water swim in Fujairah.

Crippen, who was 26, died of heat exertion and several others were admitted to hospital after swimming in water that was 31ºC.

Although there is no maximum temperature regulation set by the sport’s governing body, Fina, pool temperatures must not be warmer than 28ºC during events.

Sea snakes could also pose a threat to swimmers during either of the two Dubai swims.

The creatures are rare and highly venomous, although only their rear fangs emit toxins and only 3 per cent of bites are fatal.Open water swimming has grown in popularity in recent years, with several high-profile swims held to draw attention to environmental damage.

Up to 20 swimmers are expected to take part when the shorter event is rescheduled, with about 15, including two relay teams, expected for the longer swim.

In 2006, Briton Lewis Pugh, now 50, became the first person to complete a long distance swim in every ocean of the world and was named as a UN Patron of the Oceans.

A Dubai resident, Mr Lynch, 55, said he hoped to attract renowned open water swimmers to his event in November.

The swim could set the Guinness World Record as the fastest circumnavigation swim of the World Islands.

“There are plenty of sea snakes around here and jellyfish,” he said. “The only concern is swimming not seeing them in the water, but the risks are low.”

Updated: March 20, 2020 08:54 AM

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