Andy Donaldson Cook Strait

Oceans Seven challenger Andy Donaldson set new World Record for Cook Strait swim

Ayrshire swimmer Andy Donaldson has completed the third leg of his Oceans Seven challenge – the Cook Strait in New Zealand – setting a new World Record with a time of 4h,33m

Scotsman Andy Donaldson has completed the third leg of his Oceans Seven challenge – the Cook Strait in New Zealand – setting a new World Record with a time of 4h, 33m.

Andy, who grew up in Ayrshire, Scotland and is now based in Australia, commenced the swim at midnight on 7 March after days being delayed by strong winds caused by Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle.

Andy swam 22km from Picton on the South Island to Wellington on the North Island. His crossing was almost faster than the Interislander ferry and beat Casey Glover’s 15-year-old speed record by four minutes.

Overcoming doubts

With rumours of shark sightings and the prospect of swimming through the night during a spring tide, Andy had some worries about the challenge.

“I’d been told horror stories of people stuck swimming in the same spot or going backwards because of the strength of the currents. I’d heard about the shark sightings and that people believed it to be physically impossible to swim across the Strait during a spring tide,” Andy wrote on Instagram after his swim.

“It’s absolutely natural for questions and doubts to enter our heads before a swim. We are human after all. However, what we do have control over is how we react to these thoughts. Will we let them affect us, or will we choose to acknowledge them and use them to better equip ourselves for the challenge ahead?

“The latter is what we tried to do. We did our homework, trusted our instincts, and in the end, we came away with a result that was the fastest Cook Strait crossing of all time.”

Three down, four to go

The Oceans Seven comprises the seven toughest and most iconic channel swims in the world. These total a distance of 200km and present unique challenges including strong tides, rough swells, extreme cold, jellyfish and sharks. To complete the challenge to Marathon Swimming Federation standards, swimmers must complete the swims without any equipment that benefits speed, buoyancy or heat retention.

Andy has completed three of the seven swims to date, with his next swim, the 42km Molokai Channel in Hawaii booked in for April 2023. His goal is to swim all seven channels in a year. If he succeeds he will be the first person to ever achieve this.

Mental health awareness

During his Oceans Seven challenge, Andy is raising money for the Black Dog Institute, a charity that is pioneering mental health research. For Andy, mental health is an issue that’s close to his heart, having lost friends to suicide and experiencing his own struggles with his mental health.

“During 2019, I experienced my own struggles with depression. I was burnt out and felt a bit lost in life,” says Andy on his fundraising page. “Fortunately I received some great support from those around me, and I was encouraged back into the water where I discovered community, along with tools to help manage and improve my mental wellbeing.”

Here are the details of his swim so far, and what he’s got coming up.

English Channel (England to France) – 33km Completed August 2022

North Channel (Ireland to Scotland) – 34km Completed September 2022

Cook Strait (North Island to South Island, New Zealand) – 22km Completed March 2023

Molokai Strait (Molokai to Oahu, Hawaii) – 43km Planned for April 2023

Strait of Gibraltar (Spain to Morocco) – 14.4km Planned for May 2023

Catalina Channel (Santa Catalina to Los Angeles) – 32km Planned for July 2023

Tsugaru Strait (Honshu to Hokkaido, Japan) – 19.5km Planned for July 2023

Read our interview with Andy about his training for the Oceans Seven.

To find out more about Andy’s Oceans Seven challenge, visit his fundraising page and follow Andy on Instagram for updates.

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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.