North Channel swim

Jessika Robson becomes youngest person to swim the North Channel

At 17-years old, Jessika Robson has become the youngest person to swim the North Channel (pending ratification), with a time of 11hrs, 46m

This isn’t the first time 17-year-old Jessika Robson has swum in the North Channel. Her first taste of the notorious crossing was in 2021, as Jordan Leckey’s support swimmer.

This time, Jessika has done it on her own, becoming the youngest person (ratification pending) to swim the North Channel, with a time of 11hrs, 46m. Once ratified, Jessika’s swim will be submitted to Guinness World Records. The current record holder is Anshuman Jhingran, who was 18 at the time of his swim.

Jessika’s achievement coincides with other incredible record-breaking swims this week, including Jonty Warneken becoming the first amputee to swim the North Channel solo, and Gill Castle becoming the first person with a stoma to swim solo across the English Channel.

From the pool to the open water

A frequent pool swimmer throughout her childhood, Jessika turned to outdoor swimming during lockdown, when all her local swimming pools were closed. Since then she’s undertaken a series of incredible swimming challenges, including Pickie to Pier swim and Carlingford Lough. It was her taster of the North Channel with Jordan that inspired her to take on the crossing herself, fitting her training around studying for her A Levels.

Conditions for the swim started off well, according to Jessika’s mum Kelly, who was in the support boat with Infinity Channel Swimming. “The conditions were out of this world: flat, calm, glassy waters; swimming into a picture-perfect sunrise. Then after a couple of hours, the fog came down. It was so thick, you couldn’t see a thing around you. But the waters stayed calm and Jess was focused and swimming beautifully.”

While conditions were mostly ideal, Jessika had an unfortunate encounter with a Lion’s mane jellyfish. “Jess took a really bad sting in the first couple of hours. She hit the jellyfish head first and swam straight through it, wrapping her entire body in its tentacles in the process,” Kelly explained. “She was sore, shook up and nervous of her surroundings for the rest of the swim but she took some painkillers, got her head down and got on with it.

She took one more bad sting and a few smaller ones throughout the day. I would definitely say the jellies was the most challenging part of the swim for her.”

Battling on

Braving the stings, Jessika cracked on with her swim, enduring choppier conditions and unfavourable tides. Her support swimmer, Chris Judge, dived in to support her when he felt she needed it most.

“Just him swimming behind her gave her such a massive boost,” said Kelly. “She just kept on swimming. I am and always will be in total awe of her.”

Jessika reached the end point at Portpatrick in Scotland, achieving a distance of 41km in 11hrs, 46m.

“She got to the beach, stood on it and just burst into sobs of total happiness, before finishing it off with a cartwheel!” said Kelly. “To say I’m proud of her would be a complete understatement. To show that amount of determination and dedication at such a young age is unreal.”

Read our interview with Jessika about her Carlingford Lough swim.

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Abi writes swimming news stories and features for the Outdoor Swimmer website and manages the social media channels. She loves to swim, run, hike and SUP close to her home in Herefordshire. While she’s a keen wild swimmer, Abi is new to the world of open water events and recently completed her first open water mile. She has previously written for The Guardian, BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC History Magazine and Ernest Journal.