Scilly Swim Challenge

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Kate Queally returns to the Scilly Islands to take on a magical challenge

I first heard of this event when it started in 2015. The idea of swimming between these magical islands was thrilling!

In 2016 I booked on the two-day challenge then worried I wouldn't be up to it. I'd done a few swim events but nothing quite on this scale. The friendly and supportive organisers Bryony, Nick and Dewi reassured me that it was a challenge not a race and that their job was to ensure everyone enjoyed doing as much as they could. I was happier knowing that if it was too much for me I might get a lift forward on one of the boats or miss out a leg altogether and swim later. This was very reassuring especially when thinking about the huge long swim from St Agnes to Bryher.

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Kate ready for the Challenge!

So September came and off we sailed on the amazing Scillonian looking at the Cornish coast, open sea, then at last the magical islands coming into view.

At registration with a sense of apprehension we were given our hats and had our numbers written on our hands and met lots of lovely fellow swimmers and all the wonderful crew of pod leaders, safety kayakers and boaters. Such a great team.

We had a little acclimatisation swim for us to test the cool water and for the organisers to see we were in the right "pod" – red, amber or green. I was in green being the slowest! I actually swam at the back of green, I did use the help offered and missed a few bits but I fell in love with the Scilly Swim Challenge that year and have been coming ever since.

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This September I was still in green but more in the middle, didn't need any help and swam it all! Without a wetsuit!

The first day was bright and breezy. We met at Porthmellon gig sheds to walk and chat excitedly to Bar Point. Once we arrived and loaded our stuff onto the baggage boat, people got ready to swim. Those without wetsuits got to keep their dryrobes on until the last minute. After checking in we stood with our pod leaders keen to get started. Red hats first, ambers next, then at last us greens – we were off! It was a choppy swim of 2.8 km over to St Martin's and looking down at beautiful white sand, forests of seaweed with starfish and crabs was stunning. We arrived at the quay at Highertown. First swim done!

We then walked to Lowertown and had lunch.

Next was a more sheltered swim to Tresco of 2.3k.

After walking across Tresco we swam our third and last swim of the day over to Bryher just 600m this time.

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We boated back to St Mary's – a jolly bunch delighted with how the day had gone.

The next morning we met at Porthcressa beach to swim 2.9k to St Agnes. This swim crosses deep open sea and feeling the current made swimming fun. The expert kayakers guided us across and we reached St Agnes happy knowing we had just one last swim left to complete our challenge! The big one across to Bryher via Samson 5.8k. After lunch we checked in one last time and then pod by pod jumped off the end of the quay and started swimming. It was a long swim but felt great when we could see Samson getting closer and even better when we waded onto the sand bar to meet the wonderful kayaker with a pot of jelly babies – what a treat!

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One last little bit to go so straight back in and across to Bryher – we made it! Such a sense of achievement to complete this fabulous event. Just brilliant!

Tired shoulders and so many happy faces. We did it!

At the after party that night we sat in the white sand with our bowls of chilli chatting with new friends and old ones. The Scilly Swim Challenge family just keeps growing. This year Swim Quest have taken on the challenge and I look forward to see how the event develops. Bring on next year!

More info:

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Kate and friends

01 Cover October

Issue 54 October 2021

  • We Swim Proud: The LGBTQ+ experience of swimming outdoors
  • Autumn Adventures: The best places to wild swim this autumn
  • Crowning Glory: Courtney Paulk’s historic Double Triple Crown
  • Cassie Patten: What is the best style front crawl stroke for the open water?
  • Access All Areas: The problem of making lidos more accessible to disabled swimmers

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