After two years of hard training, and a week before her attempt at a record-breaking two-way four-person relay swim of Loch Lomond, Chris Sifleet broke her wrist. The physical pain was insignificant compared to her disappointment, and the feeling that she would let down her ChillyMcFillies team mates.
The four women, one representing each of the four nations of the United Kingdom, had come together to tackle a Loch Lomond relay under the rules of the British Long Distance Swimming Association, an idea Chris had come up with two years earlier.
Being unable to swim, Chris decided to find a substitute. The first candidate, Michelle Sandford, “did her shoulder in” so also had to withdraw. Then Carol Lord stepped in to represent England. The three other team members were Colleen Blair (Scotland), Judith Campbell (Northern Ireland) and Jackie Ecclestone (Wales). Chris became a member of the support crew instead.
Starting with Colleen, the team set off from Balloch, at the southern tip of the loch, at 5:10 in the morning on 30 August. Just over 15 hours later they arrived at Ardlui at the northern end. There, they turned around and, in a slightly faster time, completed the return leg for a total swim time of 30 hours 39 minutes and 45 seconds.
Chris describes the initial conditions as quite challenging with the wind gusting up to force 4. The water temperature varied considerably along the length of the loch and was typically between 14 and 16 degrees but dropped at night to an estimated 11 degrees. The night-time air temperature was only about 6 degrees. By the end, the lake was calm and smooth.
Despite its inauspicious prelude, the swim went well. Chris describes how the swimmers were apprehensive about leaping into the cold loch in the dark hours and there was a fair bit of shivering after swims but other than that there were no real issues.
“There was a lot of dancing and hugging to keep warm,” says Chris, “but spirits were high throughout.”
The team have raised more than £3,000 for cancer research and their donation page can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/chillymcfillies
The team are grateful for the support of sponsors Infinity Swimming, Tighnairn B&B and Forkhill Car and Van Sales. Chris runs Swim4Miles offering open water swimming training in Loch Lomond. She hopes to put together a team of ChillyMcWillies for a major swimming challenge in 2018. Get in touch if you’re interested through the website.