ON MONDAY NIGHT, the streets of west Cork were lined with hundreds of people out to welcome home a local hero.
Steve Redmond, the first person to complete the Oceans7 challenge, touched down in Cork Airport after an lengthy flight from Japan and was greeted by friends, relatives and well-wishers along the route to Ballydehob.
“The buzz down here in Cork is incredible,” he told TheScore today. “It’s very nice that people turned out to greet us. It meant a huge amount to see everyone there on the roads. They’ve all been involved in this from the start.
“There were a fair few tears. You’d have to be taken aback by the turnout. I stayed up until half four but the party was still going long after that.”
Having successfully swam his sixth of the ‘seven summits of the sea’ earlier this year, the 47-year-old had just the Tsugaru Strait left to make history by beating Penny Palfrey and several other professional open water swimmers (who weren’t far behind him) to the finish line.
A first and second attempt were scuppered by dreadful wind and current conditions but Steve returned to Asia with Noel Brown and David Williams two weeks ago in a final attempt to conquer the notorious channel.
When a third effort to do so had to be abandoned, however, it looked as if they would have to head back to Ireland with bad news.
“We had a six-hour swim on the Wednesday but then the weather went to hell. That current is a bastard. You just have to get the right conditions and you only get them on a dozen days a year or so.
“We had to leave for home on Saturday but just as we were about to go the weather calmed so we had to try one more time.”
Steve’s skipper, a Japanese tuna fisherman, agreed to take them out through the night and after a gruelling 14hours 24 minutes, he had reached the other side.
It was a perfect swim,” he says. At the end, it was a completely surreal moment. Noel swam in with me to make sure it was finished properly and recorded it as evidence.
“It was such a sweet feeling. It meant an awful lot in the end to make it an Irish thing and stick it to the rest of them. It’s not often that we get the chance to and if an American had achieved what we did, they’d be blowing about it, so it was great.
“The relief was beyond words. The thoughts of not doing this swim had been crippling me and, as I said before, the fear of failure is a killer. We were very lucky because I don’t know when I would have got back again. There’s a lot of money involved.”
Evidently exhausted by the whole experience, Steve, who was in such a bad way after the ordeal that he has only managed to eat for the first time today, says he plans to take a break but admits there are more swims he would like to tackle.
He has already lined up another go at the Fastnet for the Cork South West Association for Autism (“they’re the brave people”) in a couple of weeks but, in the mean time, there is plenty to keep him busy at home.
“The garden is like the lost city of I don’t know what and I see there’s a list as long as my arm here at home of things Steve has to do. Payback’s a bitch, I guess.”
Watch Steve being welcomed home at Cork Airport, and on the open top bus:
YouTube credit: westcorktelevision