Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation "Nothing great is easy", Captain Matthew Webb



A relay team from Ireland made up of deaf ladies swims the Channel

7th July was an Amazing day, probably one of the best days of our lives. Conquering the “Mount Everest” of the swimming world is something unbelievable for a team who some years ago would never even have dreamed of doing it. In addition, 18 months before our successful swim of the English Channel, we had never swam in the sea.

How was it possible? How did we conquer all the difficulties? What made this dream a reality???

After 18 months of hard training in the pool and the sea and in all weathers and conditions and doing events every month for our charity, the world’s first “Irish deaf Channel Swimmers relay” team was ready to take on the challenge of the English Channel.

We arrived in Kingsdown Chalet in Kent on Sunday 29th June a few days early to chill before our swim on 3rd July. About 50 Irish supporters friends & families came, the next few days after us, to lend their support. It was great having them with us. We went on a trip to the white cliffs of Dover, Canterbury town, and the best part was swimming in sea with us.  The next few days we got told that our swim was postponed till after the weekend and we were not expecting it, as weather was fabulous. Some of supporters and families even my 2 best friends, my own Mother, my sister and nephew had to go home. This made things worse for all of us. 3 swimmer’s families went home but some stayed, the White’s Clan, Nora lovely boyfriend Ray, my Husband and my 2 kids and my 3 best friends.

We were all in the pub having our Sunday dinner drowning our sorrows because most of the supporters had gone home and later on that day we got a txt from Eddie the pilot asking us if we could swap with another team and we replied to him that we wanted to swim first as it was our slot.

Eddie said the weather was still going to be a bit choppy and we weren’t clear as to why he told us that. We were texting back and forward to Eddie to let us to start our swim it was bad enough that our family and friend’s had gone home, we weren’t up for more bad news. Eddie explained that he was worried about communication if the water was rough.. well that was it!!!! We txt him that there was load of ways of communicating with him and we were very good at lip reading and never had any problems what’s so ever in the sea back home. Waiting on txt reply back from Eddie …………… He replied swim start in morn on 7th July and to meet him at the Marine. Well, we all broke down crying, after the gang went home then this txt we got. Everyone who witnessed the tension we went through understood why we all jumped up and cried and hugged each other and even the Barman cried with us and he wished us the best of luck.


Morning of the swim 5am

On the deck met the crews and “EDDIE”

Passport checked

Boat loaded up

Forms filled by observer

Off we sailed the start of our Amazing journey!!

Eddie explained more why he text us and we understood why he text us as it was his first time having 7 deaf women doing the channel swim and he said he was sorry.

On the 7thJuly 2014 at 06.02am, the “IRISH DEAF CHANNEL SWIMMERS “ sailed to Shakespear beach for Dee to start the swim .We seen our supporters running to meet us on the other side of the beach and to wave us good bye.

Team Deirdre entered the water on a spring tide from Shakespeare beach (Dover); to start their 35 km swim (19 nautical) to France. Each swimmer, Deirdre Dunne, Patricia Heffernan, Nora Duggan, Bridie Power, Michelle Mc Laughlin, Lisa Finn & Bernadette White will swim one hour each in the same rotation until one of the swimmers is able to clear the water on a beach onto French land. Water temp was 16.c Air 16.8 and sea was pretty rough. Sun was still shining and quite warm for 6am.

The first stage for each of us was really exciting as we all wanted to get in and get on with it after all our hard training.  We all did our first legs well and did not feel cold which was great. The hours of cold open water training was paying off! It was Eddie first time ever to have deaf team on his Anastasia boat and he and Sharon Rogers the observer were telling us that we were doing well, despite the communication barrier.

When each swimmer finish their leg the group would help change and prep their food and then the swimmer would tell us how they got on in water.

We saw lots of ferries all around the channel. The smell of Eddie’s crew making fry was heavenly. The first 7 hours the sea was choppy and the waves were high. We couldn’t get our rhythm but at the same time we still managed to swim well. Some of us had a bit of seasickness and kind Eddie gave us a jar of ginger sweets.

Our lovely Ronan, our media, took a lot photos and short videos for our Facebook page for our great supporters back home and updated hourly our swim videos and posted it on Facebook with the live-tracker for the deaf community to followed us and it was an amazing day for them too as we didn’t want to leave them out.

We watch a soloist swim beside us named Matt that stayed in the same place we stayed in Kingsdown Chalet and we admired how strong he was doing at his solo swim.

Second lap in rotating got better; the sea was calmer and getting warmer and we were enjoying every minute. The adrenaline was pumping harder and faster as we knew we were getting very close to French Beach. We saw some seals and Jellyfish but nothing scared us as we have plenty of them back home. Some of us took a power nap, which helps us.

Eddie explained to us that last the swimmer (Bernadette) time was up and we only had 5 mins left and it was Dee turn to swim again but with another swimmer to supporter her to the shore that was Nora. They were the last to get in and finish the swim. It was only a 5 mins swim but felt longer than that. We were all cheering for them even though they were deaf lol we couldn’t help it!

The Irish Deaf Channel Swimmers successfully completed their one-way relay on July 7, 2014, in a time of 14 hours, 10 minutes and 44 seconds on the Cap Griez. It was very emotional day for us, we were all happy, tired and bit sad..well I was (Lisa)!! I didn’t want it end that quick after crazy 18 months. Ah well it something I’ll never forget!!

Eddie told me again that he was sorry for doubting our ability and he would not judge any one that has a disability and he should give other people a chance!! . I’m glad he got a chance to meet us. It took 3 hours to get back to Dover and it felt very long and we thought we would never get back to the harbor. Seeing our lovely supporters jumping up with the Irish flag and Banners, my family and best friends waiting on the dock we got lots of hugs from them it was a very emotional night … They were telling us that back home in Ireland, everyone one was watching us, from start till end on Facebook that Ronan filmed us on Boat then we opened up a bottle of champagne.

18 months of fundraising and training was pretty hard. We were aiming for €10,000.We proudly raise €30,214.44 for our charity (IDWG) Irish Deaf Women Group.

We had a massive party in the Deaf Village Ireland on 6th September and 550 deaf from all over Ireland attended .We have been invited to meet The President of Ireland at a party in 2015. We also recently won ILDSA “SHEENA PATERSON SPIRIT OF OPEN WATER SWIMMING AWARD 2014”

If there is anyone thinking about swimming the Channel our advice is to do it, prepare your self 2 years advance.

We could not swim without hard work and with dedication anything is possible!!!

We would like to thank Ronan and Jason for all their hard work keeping our Facebook page busy that day and made it successful. We would also like to thank our friends and families who came over with us, we would have been lost without them. Also we like to thank all the deaf community all over Ireland for being there for us it meant a lot to us…. Finally we would like to thank Eddie and the crew for taking us on board and hope they enjoyed our company x


Lisa x


Sandettie Lightship Observations

8am, 28th March 2024

Water: 49.3 °F (9.6 °C)

Air: 47.5 °F (8.6 °C)

Wind Speed: 26.0 kn (48.2 km/h)

Wind Direction: SW (220°)

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