Why the North Channel?

Why the North Channel?

The North Channel is in a way a logical step up from the English Channel, which I crossed in 2011.

With a width of 34 kms, cold water (15-17ºC), and strong currents changing every 6 hours, the English Channel is without a doubt the most iconic of all open water swims worldwide. This daunting crossing has often been compared to climbing Mount Everest to explain its attraction to marathon swimmers from all over the world. Ever since the first successful crossing in 1875 by Matthew Webb, at least 1200 individuals from a large number of countries have made one or more successful crossings, and I am proud to be one of them.

However, it is common knowledge among channel swimmers around the world that there is at least one established channel crossing that is even more difficult than the English Channel: the North Channel (aka the Irish Channel) between Northern Ireland and Scotland at the Mull of Galloway. Apart from a slightly longer distance (35 kms), at 10-13ºC the water is significantly colder than the English Channel, and teeming with jellyfish. Even the tidal movements of the water can be unpredictable.

While the first attempts by swimmers to cross the North Channel took place as early as in 1923, the first successful crossing didn’t happen until 25 years later, in 1948. Since then only 12 individuals, all from the UK, Ireland, Australia, and more recently the US, have made successful crossings, in spite of numerous attempts. Compared to the 1200 of the English Channel this is a tiny number. However, the number is expected to grow considerably in the coming years as the North Channel crossing has now been included in the ‘Ocean’s Seven’. This is a list of the world’s seven hardest and most iconic channel crossings, which has so far been accomplished by only one person (Stephen Redmond from Ballydehob, Ireland), but with more expected to follow.

These are all reasons why I am attracted by the North Channel. Ever since I crossed the English Channel in 2011 I have been thinking about it. To be able to achieve this crossing would be a huge achievement even for much more accomplished long distance swimmers than myself. An added bonus would be to become, at the age of 47, the first person from my home country, the Netherlands, which has a large community of very talented swimmers, to cross what is currently viewed as one of the most brutal and difficult swims in the world.