Leinster Open Sea will run the 85th Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race on Sunday 23 August
- Men’s race at 4.30pm
- Ladies’ race 5.30pm.
The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race was first run in 1931 and it has run ever year since, making it the second oldest continuous race in Ireland. There were however swimming races run in Dún Laoghaire Harbour before 1931. See
YouTube clip of a swimming race in Dún Laoghaire Harbour in 1926.
Dún Laoghaire has a long association with sea swimming as Dún Laoghaire Harbour is beside the Forty Foot which is the home of all year round sea swimming. The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Company are planning to build an urban beach or Badeschiff facility in the Harbour which will further enhance the Harbour as a swimming location.
The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race is part of the Leinster Open Sea Calendar. Each weekend from June to September, Leinster Open Sea and the swimming clubs of Leinster run open sea swimming races along the coast of Leinster. Theses are held at well known swimming locations such as Malahide, Portmarnock, Howth, Clontarf, South Wall, Seapoint, Dun Laoghaire, Sandycove, Killiney and Bray, Wicklow, Lough Dan County Wicklow, Curracloe County Wexford, Lough Leane County Westmeath, Salthill Galway and the river Liffey. These races form the Leinster Open Sea Calendar.
The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race along with the Dublin City Liffey Swim are rightly considered the two most prestigious swimming races on the Leinster Open Sea Calendar. For swimmers winning the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race is akin to winning an All Ireland Final. Sea swimmers aim to win one of the big two races in their swimming career.
The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race comprises a 2,200 metre race around the circumference of Dún Laoghaire Harbour battling fellow swimmers, reaching marker buoys, avoiding any number of obstacles and taking on the might that is the Irish Sea.
The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race is different to most sea races as there is considerable interaction between the crowd and the swimmers.
In many sea races swimmers are swimming out to sea around a course marked by marine marker buoys. Spectators on the shore have difficulty in identifying individual swimmers, and swimmers certainly cannot hear the commotion and the noise of the crowd.
The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race starts at the RNLI slipway beside the East Pier. There is an opportunity for the crowd looking down from the East pier to clap and cheer on swimmers as they start their journey out around the Harbour. The Swimmers then swim out by the National Yacht Club of Ireland, the RNLI lifeboat and out along the Carlisle Pier. They then swim across from the Carlisle Pier to the mouth of the Harbour and the East Pier Lighthouse. This is roughly the half way point. Friends, family and spectators then can walk or run along the East Pier and follow the swimmers as they battle the last 1,000 metres home, past the anemometer, the Boyd Memorial, the Band Stand and finally the last gruelling two hundred metres from Berth No 1 back to the finish line at the RNLI slipway. The swimmers in the water can see and they certainly can hear the crowds on the return journey along the East Pier. The louder the crowd cheer the closer a swimmer is to the front of the race.
Friends and family can identify individual swimmers as they swim past from the East Pier. The only other swim which has the same interaction between swimmers and spectators is of course the Dublin City Liffey Swim.
The Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race caters for swimmers as young as 14 years of age up to senior citizens. There are also two children’s races of 100 metres and 200 metres for children 13 years of age and younger which are held before the men’s race.
In 2014 the men’s race was won by Gabriel Byrne of Templeogue SC and the ladies’ race was won by Lily O’Brien of Corrib WSC (Galway).
2014 Winner Gabriel Byrne writes
“The day was bright and sunny. Way off we could see clouds over the Aviva stadium. Pat O’Driscoll and I walked the wall before the race, and we agreed the water looked a bit choppy and we agreed that might suit us as we like waves.
There was the usual banter before the race who has a chance, who hasn’t a chance and who were the bandits. The same names kept on coming up. The same names that always come up, the strong swimmers, the back markers, the people who like rough water. Anyway soon it was time to be going we wandered down the slipway, stood in waist deep calm water and waited to hear our time. I was off on 6.30 number 130 with one other swimmer Colm Walsh from Guinness. We were beside each other all the way to the end of the Carlisle pier and then the waves started and we got separated
I didn’t know where I was in the race I could see the boats way on far, I could hear people shouting my name, I was unaware I was leading. I was beyond the bandstand now and getting tired when I saw a swimmer beside me. It was Gerry Dunne and I remember thinking oh no it’s Gerry Dunne. We were beside each other all the way in stroke for stroke I think my line happened to be closer to Frank so I got there but it was close. My memory of it now is just it was a great day. Real special”
Irish Olympians Donnacha O’Dea, Kevin Williamson and David Cummins have won the men’s race. English Channel Swimmers Anne McAdam and Lisa Howley have won the ladies’ race.
As the Dún Laoghaire Harbour race is a handicapped race every swimmer has a chance of winning so you do not have to be a former Olympian to either compete or win.
Based on a swimmers performance in the qualifying Leinster Open Sea Races the Hon. Handicapper gives the swimmer a handicap. The Hon. Handicapper will determine when a swimmer will start the race. The slower swimmers will start swimming one to two minutes before “GO” where as the faster swimmers will often have a high handicap and have to wait four or five minutes after “GO”. The winner is the first swimmer to pass the finish line. The handicap gives each swimmer an equal opportunity to win the race and allows a 70 year old swimmer to compete against a young athlete who is competing for Ireland at an international level.
Overseas Swimmers Qualification
Overseas swimmers must demonstrate that they are capable of completing the arduous
course from the information they supply in their application form.
Qualifying Races – Confined Competition for the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Cups Leinster Swimmers
Swimmers from Leinster must complete six races from the Leinster Open Sea Calendar in order to qualify to compete in the confined competition for the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Cups. (Cork Masters’ Lee Swim, Limerick Masters’ Thomond Swim and the ILDSA Lough Erne count as qualifying races).
Qualifying Race – Visitors’ Race – Swimmers from Ulster, Connacht or Munster
Leinster Open Sea appreciates that it can be difficult for swimmers from Ulster, Connacht or Munster to complete qualifying races from the Leinster Open Sea Calendar before the closing date. Leinster Open Sea are aware that many swimmers from Ulster, Connacht or Munster would like the opportunity to swim in the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race as it is one of most prestigious Open Sea Races in Ireland. Swimmers from Ulster, Connacht or Munster must complete four Open Sea Races anywhere in Ireland of at least a mile, before they will be allowed to compete in the Visitors’ Race.
Qualifying Races – Confined Competition for the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Cups Swimmers from Ulster, Connacht or Munster
Swimmer from Ulster, Connacht or Munster who have completed four Open Sea Races from the Leinster Open Sea Calendar are entitled to compete in the confined competition for the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Cups. (Cork Masters’ Lee Swim, Limerick Masters’ Thomond Swim and the ILDSA Lough Erne count as qualifying races).
The closing date for entries is Sunday 16th of August. Leinster Open Sea’s “ Wendy Herbst Wicklow 3k” is scheduled for Sunday 16th of August on North Beach Wicklow. Swimmers can enter the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race via www.leinsteropensea.ie.
In order to find out more about the Dún Laoghaire Harbour Race and the Leinster Open Sea Races please email email@example.com or visit www.leinsteropensea.ie or www.facebook.com/leinsteropensea or follow us on twitter @Leinsteropensea. The full Leinster Open Sea Calendar of thirty five races is published online at www.leinsteropensea.ie.