Derry student bids to be youngest to swim from Asia to Europe

Co Derry teenager Jude Williams is aiming to become the youngest Irish swimmer to swim from Asia to Europe by taking on the gruelling Hellespont-Dardanelles race to raise money for charity.

Jude Williams.
Jude Williams.

The 14 year-old Limavady Grammar School student will be among the youngest to have taken on the highly challenging 4.5km crossing from Eceabat to Canakkale in Turkey.

The schoolboy, from Killywool near Greysteel, is following in the footsteps of the legendary poet Lord Byron and the mythological Greek figure, Leander, who is fabled to have fallen in love with Hero and swum the Hellespont crossing nightly to be with her.

Jude, an already seasoned open water swimmer, triathlete and distance runner, is a member of both North West Triathlon Club and Limavady Swimming Club.

Jude Williams in training.

He is currently training hard to take on the Hellespont challenge - the oldest open water swimming event in the world - along with his dad Ryan and 400-600 other competitors on August 30.

Jude has opened a Go Fund Me page to raise funds for the Sunshine Foundation Romania Trust, a charity set up to rescue children with special needs from orphanages in Brasov, Transylvania, in Romania.

It’s a charity close to the hearts of both Jude and Ryan. In fact, they’ve dubbed their personal ‘bucket list’ challenge the ‘Swim For Sunshine’.

Jude said: “All money raised is going to the Sunshine Foundation in Romania, a charity set up to rescue children with special needs from the old institutional orphanages in Brasov. My nanna, Marie Williams, led volunteers and supporters from Ireland and Romania to essentially build two facilities in the city, saving dozens of children’s lives and delivering a massively enhanced future for them.

“It’s an epic project which persuaded the Romanian authorities to copy the programme across the region, vastly increasing the positive outcomes for those it helped.

“Post-Covid, the project has been in dire need of additional support in order to keep the projects delivering this much-needed care and we would encourage everyone to give what they can via our Go Fund Me page.

“I’m looking forward to the event, especially doing it with my dad by my side. We won’t be wearing wetsuits as there are none allowed for those competing for medals in the race.

“I just hope the weather is kind to avoid swim time being disrupted because there is only a small window of opportunity due to the fact that Turkish authorities completely close what is one of world’s busiest shipping lanes to maximise the safety of competitors in the Dardanelles Strait,” Jude said.

Ryan Williams, an entrepreneur and director with domiciliary care company, Connected Health, added: “Taking on this challenge with my son means everything – training together, racing together and raising funds for mum’s charity is the perfect mix. We look forward to the swim at the end of August with immense enthusiasm and pride.”

The Hellespont, more commonly known as the Dardanelles, is a narrow strip of water separating the Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara, and making up part of the straits that separate Europe from Asia.

To support Jude and donate to his cause, go to the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/swim-for-sunshine?qid=3ab68609c27251d9f9c7df29051c3645