Bangor's Pickie to Pier Swim returns with a splash back to original race route from 1910

The Pickie to Pier Swim will return to Bangor this summer for its fifth outing as part of Open House Festival’s Seaside Revival initiative, and there’s a significant change to this year’s route.

In a nod to the original race, which ran from 1910 until the mid-1980s, the 200 participants on Saturday 6th July will now swim an 800-metre course from Skippingstone Beach at Pickie to the tip of the Eisenhower Pier, and then loop back to the starting point at Skippingstone.

After a 30-year absence, the legendary swim was resurrected by Open House in 2019 to spectacular success, and, following a break in 2020 due to Covid, has now become a regular summer event once again, with hundreds of onlookers gathering each year to cheer the swimmers on.

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For the previous four races, the participants swam a straight course from Skippingstone to the RNLI slipway at Bangor Marina, but the organisers decided it was time to revert to the original race route.

“When we brought the event back to life in 2019 we thought a direct route from the beach to the pier would be best,” says event organiser Sharon Matchett from Open House.

“But to mark the fifth year of the new race, we decided to step it up a notch with a U-turn back to the starting point. In reality the course is only an extra 50 metres in length, but it will probably look more to the swimmers.”

The new route will create more of a carnival atmosphere at the event, especially as the spectators will be able to watch the entire race from the beach and adjacent coastal path. Swimmers will be treated to free yoga classes from the Salty Yogi, and breathwork lessons from Scott Riley, who trained with the world-renowned ‘iceman’, Wim Hof.

And to add to the proceedings, Olympian Andrew Bree from Helen’s Bay, who represented Ireland in the breaststroke at the Beijing and Sydney Olympics, will provide commentary as the swimmers prepare to depart, and as they return to shore, interviewing the winner and runners up.

Last year saw an all-female podium for the second successive year, with two visiting elite open water swimmers from the USA, Catherine Breed and Felicia Lee, taking first and third places respectively.

Bangor’s own Jessika Robson, who had previously won the race in 2022 and 2021, finished in the runner-up spot. Jessika went on to become the youngest swimmer to cross the North Channel in October 2023, and she’ll be sure to get a rapturous welcome from the crowd if she returns to try and reclaim her Pickie to Pier crown.

“Of course, this event isn’t just about the winners,” said Sharon, “It’s about the joy of taking part, the camaraderie, and the sense of achievement for the swimmers when they walk out of the water. Our final swimmer home will receive just as big a cheer as the winner will.”

For the third year in a row, prizes will be presented by Cosimac Ltd, the Bangor-based outdoor clothing company who specialise in swimming robes and towels. They’ll be presenting a Cosimac Dippers Bundle to the first swimmer home, a Cosimac hooded poncho towel to the runner-up, and a Cosimac changing mat bag to the swimmer in third place.

Post-swim snacks will be provided by ASDA Bangor and Eurospar Gransha, and all participants will receive a medal for completing the course.

Angela Skarmoutsos of Cosimac said, “As a local Bangor brand, we’re thrilled and proud to be supporting this brilliant event once again. It fits perfectly with the Cosimac ethos to get into the water and have an adventure! We are so grateful to Open House for bringing this joyful event back to Bangor again, and wish all the swimmers the best of luck.”

Participants must be over 16 years of age, and confident, experienced swimmers who are capable of swimming 1000m within 30 minutes. The route will be supported in the water by kayaks, ribs, and paddleboards.

Kieran Gilmore from Open House Festival paid tribute to everyone behind the scenes who helped to make the swim such a success: “We couldn’t run the event without the help and support of so many people, including Safer Waters, Kevin Baird at We are Boat Folk, the safety crews manning the route on boats, kayaks and paddle boards, and our local RNLI.

“Special thanks to all the local businesses supporting the event, and of course to our own Open House Volunteers who’ll be making sure everything runs smoothly on the day.”

Tickets for the swim are now on sale. Spaces are limited to 200, and the organisers are encouraging anyone who wants to take part in this popular and iconic event to secure their place quickly.

To purchase a ticket and view this year’s full Open House Festival programme go to: www.openhousefestival.com

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