Fire forces swimmers out of sea mid-race
Sea swimmers taking part in the annual Tracie Lawlor race at Curracloe beach had to abandon the event as the fire raged in the sand dunes nearby.
Colin Wilson, race organiser and chairman of Wexford Masters Openwater Seaswimming Club, explained that their women's race was due to start at 12 noon while the men's race was to get underway at 12.45. He said he and another club member Cecile Lambert had seen flames and smoke at around 10.45 a.m. and the fire had been reported.
'I could hear Cecile on the phone, spelling out Curracloe to them and they rang back again a little while later to find out exactly where it was.'
He said they had considered the situation prior to the race but took the decision to go ahead knowing that they could stop if necessary.
'Everyone was contactable by radio. We had five kayaks and three boats on the water so the minute we called the race off, they alerted the swimmers.'
The ladies race had been on about 20 minutes when they were called ashore. The gardai, he said, had told them that they needed to clear the car park.
'We called it in and everyone got straight out. I think the water was clear in about five to ten minutes. Everyone was gone in half an hour and there was over 200 of us.'
He said everyone had cooperated fully and the Inshore Rescue from Enniscorthy helped to remove the club's equipment through Ballinesker.
The race, Colin said, would have been the highest attended Tracie Lawlor swim and, this year, it was being used as a qualifying event for the Liffey Swim. He explained that Leinster Sea Swimming were going to accept it as a race but that, obviously, there would be no winner. He added that club could have made history on sunday as it would have been the first event in Leinster Sea Swimming to have had more women than men competing.
'I don't know if we've ever abandoned a race before but it is the most novel reason for doing so. People will be talking about this one for a long time. The important thing for us was how well our stewards and marshals worked. We're a small club and don't expect to have to evacuate a beach but everyone stepped up to ensure the safety of all participants.'
He voiced his own admiration for the fire brigade, saying that when you saw them putting themselves between the fire and the public, it made you appreciate the great job they do. Finally, he thanked Wexford Triathlon Club for manning the kayaks, Enniscorthy Inshore Rescue for their assistance and the participants themselves for cooperating with directions.