North West Wales

Irish Sea Swim: Ronan Keating starts second relay

Nikki Fraser from Penistone, during her stint, 30 miles into the The Swim
Image caption Student Nikki Fraser from Penistone, south Yorkshire, during her stint, 30 miles into the Irish Sea swim

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 that they are 28 miles from Dublin.

The challenge could take 40 hours.

At 13.30 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.

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.

Testicular cancer

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.

The world's largest species of jellyfish, the Lion's Mane, is also often spotted in the waters.

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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