Sarah Thomas sets new North Channel crossing record

US marathon swimmer, Sarah Thomas, has set a North Channel record by becoming the first person to complete a two-way, non-stop crossing of the water between Northern Ireland and Scotland. 

The 21.4-mile A-B route across the North Channel (also known as the Irish Channel or North Irish Channel) is considered one of the world’s most challenging due to its cold water temperature, fickle weather, tough tides and abundance of jellyfish. Sarah completed the gruelling two-way crossing, wearing only a swimming suit, goggles and swim cap, in 21 hours 46 minutes and 38 seconds. 

Sarah – who set off just north of Portpatrick in Scotland on Saturday 9 July 2022, piloted by Infinity Channel Swimming – made landfall at The Gobbins in Co Antrim two minutes ahead of the female one-way record. Sarah didn’t set out with plans for a double but, considering her pace, decided to head back to Scotland in an attempt to become the world’s first to complete the return swim.  

The North Channel forms part of the ‘Oceans Seven’ swims, which together with the English Channel (21 miles), the Strait of Gibraltar (10 miles) and the Cook Strait (16 miles), features six other gruelling swims around the world. 

In September 2019, Sarah – who lives near Denver, Colorado – made marathon swimming history by completing an unprecedented four-way English Channel swim in 54 hours and 10 minutes.

She returns from the North Channel swim triumphant, although covered in jellyfish stings. “I am well, other than an entire body covered with jellyfish stings,” she wrote on her social media. “That might have been the hardest, most painful thing I’ve ever done.”

Sarah is an open water coach, speaker and Outdoor Swimmer columnist. Read more about her historic four-way Channel crossing on our website.

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Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.