Flúirse company co-founder becomes 51st Irish person to swim the English Channel

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Kristian O’Donovan, a local Entrepreneur from Glenbeigh and originally Derrylea, Tralee, Co. Kerry, became only the 51st Irish person to swim the English Channel yesterday with an impressive time of 13 hours, 48 minutes.

Kristian reached the Continental European coast at Cap Gris-Nez last night, shortly after midnight local time, after a gruelling 13 hours and 48 minutes of non-stop swimming.

The co-founder of Tralee based company Flúirse Education Solutions - which own and operate among others, the popular Pitman training centre in Tralee, which specialises in delivering career based training - commenced the momentous challenge shortly after 9am from Dover, Kent, 4 hours before high tide.

Real-time GPS tracking on board Kristian’s pilot boat, Gallivant, allowed family, friends, neighbours and hundreds of people worldwide to track the swim route in detail to mainland France.

Even though the distance between Dover, England to Cap Gris-Nez, France is over 20 miles; given the strong channel currents and powerful spring tides, the swim route follows an S-curve, meaning the overall distance to swim was closer to 30 miles.

Kristian grew up in Tralee, attending Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí. As a teenager he swam competitively with Kingdom swimming club in Tralee. Later, Kristian spent many summers working as a Life Guard in Ballybunion Beach and previously Rossbeigh Beach, where he met his wife Muireann.

Most recently, Kristian volunteered as head coach with Killarney Swimming Club where he coached the Senior Squad of 20 swimmers, 6 of which went on to compete in the Irish Age Group Championships.

Kristian started his training for the Channel Swim in August 2014, motivated by a personal goal and a determination to push himself to a new level and to his physical limit.

Most remarkable, is the fact that Kristian trained alone for the vast majority of his training programme, starting initially with hours of early morning swimming in the pool at Tralee Sports and Leisure Complex, before moving to the open sea in April, swimming in Rossbeigh with the support of his cousin Micheál Griffin and his brother’s in law Tom Moynihan and Padraig Griffin.

Most recently, in final preparation for his swim, Kristian attended a nine day open sea camp at Ned  Denison’s Training Camp in Sandycove, Cork. Here, he was joined by experienced open water and channel swimmers Zara Bullen and his former UL classmate Thomas Goulding, who also completed the Cross Channel swim in 2014. Both joined Kristian yesterday as key members of his support crew.

Kristian’s Pilot boat, Gallivant was captained by James Willi with a support crew on board comprising Kristian’s father-in-law and former Kerry selector Kevin Griffin, cousins Sheila Griffin and Micheál Griffin, and business partner Tomás Finneran.

Mr. Willi commented that only 40% of those that attempt the swim finish successfully, with the majority conceding defeat to the powerful waterway.

Kristian now becomes only the second ever Kerryman to complete the arduous swim across the busiest shipping channel in the world, with his former Ballybunion lifeguard and friend Diarmuid Boyle completing the swim in 2009.

“This is my All-Ireland medal” commented Kristian, minutes after his amazing feat. “My real inspiration is my brother-in-law Cathal, who has Down Syndrome, and had to overcome many obstacles, he’s the bravest swimmer I know”.

Hundreds of messages of best wishes and congratulations came flooding in online to Kristian’s Facebook page, where each step of the swim was documented, while Kristian’s wife Muireann, and children Rían (12), Seodhla (9), Aoibhin (7), Iarla (4) and Senan (2) watched nervously from their family home in Glenbeigh. It was a double celebration for the family, with Kristian’s eldest Rían winning gold in the Community Games Spikeball Final in Athlone the previous day.

When asked about his next challenge, Kristian explained, “It’s back to the office now, there’s plenty of work to catch-up on back at Pitman Training”.

However, it was his son Rían who left us with the best quote of the day, which was texted to the crew to show to his Dad mid-swim:

“Good luck Dad, but I’ll beat your record some day!”



Kristian’s English Channel Swim Route (Monday 17th August 2015)



 Message from Kristian’s eldest Rían to his dad!



Kristian and his support crew shortly before he commenced his swim [From left: Kevin Griffin, Thomas Goulding, Kristian O’Donovan, Zara Bullen, Tomás Finneran, Micheál Griffin, Sheila Griffin]



Pilot Boat "Gallivant" 36ft Dutch Steel motor cruiser. 

She has ADSA / DOT Small commercial craft & workboat registration: Class 2 (60 miles from safe haven)


Hour 7, Kristian swims on as he is passed by a P&O Ferry



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Guest Monday, 19 February 2018