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Scottish Swimmer Creates World Record By Swimming In Shark Infested Waters Across Cook Strait

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A 31-year-old Scottish man, Andy Donaldson, created a world record for the fastest swim across the Cook Strait between New Zealand’s North and South Islands. Andy swam 23 kilometres in four hours and 33 minutes at night in the waters which were shark infested. 

Strong tides and great white sharks are two features of the body of water that extends across to Picton at the summit of the South Island of the nation.

With the new record, he has beaten the 15-year-old record just by four minutes.  It was the third of the seven legs of the Oceans Seven challenge.

Competitors wore “a pair of Speedos, goggles, and a swim cap” and were barred from using wetsuits. Andy expressed it was “pretty surreal” to swim under the moon and stars.

Before he began to swim from the bottom of New Zealand’s North Island, Wellington, he waited for the proper wind conditions for more than three weeks. He then set out at midnight on March 7. 

On BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, Programme, Andy said, “For something of that distance to come down to the wire like that made for an exciting and nerve-wracking finish, but fortunately I got there under the old time. The Cook Strait is a challenge in itself. It’s very windy down there – as anybody who has been to Wellington will know – and the weather in that channel almost acts like a wind tunnel.”

He added, “It is also very tidal, and the temperatures were probably down to similar to back home in Scotland – around 14C. It took a long time to be exposed to that cold water, but fortunately, I survived with all my limbs intact. Swimming through the hours of darkness was a nerve-wracking experience, but we couldn’t have asked for a better swim.”

The Oceans Seven challenge includes the most difficult and notable channel swims worldwide, with a distance ranging from 20km to 44km.

Andy, a native of West Kilbride, North Ayrshire, desires to conquer something that no one has ever done, which is to complete all seven legs of the historical 200km challenge in a year.

Last year in August, the Ayrshire man broke a 25-year-old British record by swimming across the English Channel in eight hours and became the first Scot to swim from Northern Ireland to Portpatrick in Scotland.

He will next swim 42 kilometres across the Molokai Channel in Hawaii, during a 10-day window in April.

Before setting off for his latest challenge, Andy who started swimming at a pool in Largs, practised enough cold-water acclimatisation. He said, “That is one of the big challenges with all these swims.” 

He further added, “It was the same with the English Channel. They have very traditional rules, based on the first guy who did it, so I put wool fat – lanolin – on my body and lathered up beforehand.”

“The best preparation is to just go in for a cold swim and acclimatize to the conditions. If you are not ready, it can really affect you and almost shut your body down.”

Andy was previously a professional pool swimmer who backed national titles at 200m freestyle but 10 years ago when shifted to Perth, Australia, he began swimming in open waters.

Idolizing his Scottish grandfather, who “really struggled with depression”, Andy Donaldson is currently trying to raise funds for an Australian mental health charity, the Black Dog Institute.

He said, “Hopefully the next swim in Hawaii will be a bit warmer and we can get across safely. They all have their own unique challenges.”

“We are just giving it our best, raising money for mental health – that’s the purpose behind all this”, he added.

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