St Kilda to Harris swim


We speak to one of the hardy swimmers who became the first team to make this epic crossing.

It’s a long way from St Kilda to Harris – 55-60 miles, in fact. It takes about two and a half hours by boat. But can you imagine swimming such a distance?

A seven-person relay team has done just that, making them the first to successfully swim from St Kilda to Harris.

KayakOn 17 August, the team embarked on the St Kilda Swim, leaving Village Bay on Hirta at 4am. Previous unsuccessful attempts were mainly down to poor weather conditions, something that can’t unfortunately be controlled. With a 10-day weather window from 10-20 August, the team managed to get a spell of good conditions, allowing them to achieve their goal.

Taking an impressive 35 hours in total, the St Kilda Swim finished as the swimmers reached Huisinish on Harris just after 3pm, a whole seven hours earlier than predicted.

Swimmer John Dyer spoke to us about the experience. “It was exhilarating, frightening, fulfilling! We each did 45 minutes at a time, and in that, we had every emotion you could imagine.”

John and the rest of the team encountered some fascinating wildlife during the swim. “One of my swims was at 2.45am,” John says, “and once I jumped in, I could see the bioluminescence up the length of my arms with every stroke. It was amazing. While we were swimming, we saw all sorts of jellyfish, dolphins, seals and gannets.”

During one of the earlier attempts, John even came face to face with a minke whale as he swam. At first glance, he suspected something much bigger and more dangerous. “With long distance swims, your mind certainly plays tricks on you!” he says. But after being reassured by a kayaker that it was safe to continue, he kept swimming.

The endAlthough the team of nine succeeded in completing something hugely impressive, a special mention should go out to the kayakers and boat crew that accompanied them on the journey. “It wasn’t just the swimmers that were involved,” John says, “it was a whole team event and we couldn’t have done it without the kayakers and the boat crew who guided us, cooked for us and generally helped us along the way.”

The group, led by Colin MacLeod, of Stornoway, and sponsored by TalkTalk, raised money for The Leanne Fund, The Fishermen’s Mission, Yorkhill Children’s Charity and Aberlour Child Care Trust.

Rosie Sullivan, whose father Michael Sullivan took part in a previous attempt, has released a song called ‘St Kilda Swim Song’. Performing the song with Stephen Drummond, Jessica Fowler, Jane Hepburn, Anna Murray and Eleanor Nicolson, Rosie has made the song available to buy on iTunes for only 79p, with all proceeds going to the four charities.

Now that the St Kilda Swim is over, the team has been receiving recognition from all over the world for their immense effort. So how is John celebrating his team’s fantastic victory? “I’m sitting with my feet up, basking in the glory!” Very well deserved, we think.

Find out more here.

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