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CHALLENGE OF THE OPEN SEA; A team of adventurous swimmers are currently racking up the laps at local pools, before donning wetsuits and heading for open water, ahead of a daunting 65-mile North Atlantic relay in June to raise money for charity.


Nine brave Scots are hoping to complete a daring swim between two of Scotland's most remote islands this summer.

It's claimed that this will be the first time that anyone has swum the 65 miles between the Outer Hebridean islands of Harris and St Kilda.

The swim relay team will face numerous challenges when they attempt the North Atlantic crossing in June. The sea in the far northwest '' Everyone thinks I'm of Scotland is notoriously rough and often subject to treacherous weather.

to attempt big In fact, finding a long enough window of opportunity is team leader Colin Macleod's biggest concern.

ocean crossing Colin, of Stornoway, on the island of Lewis, said: "We need at least a few days of favourable conditions to even think about getting in the sea.

"Unfortunately, that is down to luck and sometimes being able to drop everything and swim when good weather does come."

Colin knows only too well how the weather can hamper a long open-water swim.

In 2012, an attempt to swim the 30-mile Little Minch strait, which separates the Highlands and the Inner Hebrides, failed due to bad weather. The following year, thanks to unusually good conditions, Colin and a relay team successfully swam the 55-mile Big Minch, from Ullapool, on the mainland, to Stornoway.

The St Kilda Swim 2014 will be his biggest swimming challenge yet.

He said: "Everyone, including the local fishermen, thinks I am completely mad to attempt this big ocean crossing by swimming."

The epic swim will also raise funds for three charities, The Leanne Fund, The Fisherman's Mission and Yorkhill Children's Charity.

The team of three women and six men hope to leave from Horgabost, south-west Harris, on June 28. They will swim in a non-stop relay of 45 minutes each for around 60 hours.

The swimmers will be supported by a motorised cabin cruiser, the Kyle Bhan, which has sleeping quarters, and three kayakers.

Colin said: "Navigation will be tricky and we need the help of the boat and skipper to lead us the right way.

"We will be swimming through the night and also in waves, swell, tides and currents."

The kayakers will also be on hand just in case any of the swimmers get into difficulty.

During the Big Minch swim, one female swimmer was suddenly confronted with Orca whales. Other dangers include stinging jellyfish.

The nine swimmers, aged between 29 and 58, live as far afield as the Western Isles, Ross-shire and Lanarkshire.

They are currently training hard, swimming hundreds of lengths each week at their local pools.

In the months to come, they will put on wetsuits and train in lochs and at the coast.

Colin, 42, said: "It will be a very tough outing, so I have chosen swimmers who I know can cope with this type of adventure."

John Dyer, a retired firefighter and the eldest in the team, is from Motherwell. He said: "Unlike some people, I really enjoy swimming in Scotland's waters.

"However, I would normally wait until later in the year to swim in Loch Lomond. I will just have to get into the cold waters early this year.

"I will need all the training hours I can get if I am going to be prepared for the St Kilda swim."

Sandra Morrison is a newcomer to open-water swimming.

The Uist-based secondary school teacher said: "I'm a keen swimmer, but this is first time I've attempted such a challenge so I'm apprehensive."

"I know it will be tough, but the rewards will be the achievement and raising funds for the three charities."

The team have asked the permission of the National Trust for Scotland, which looks after the island, to stay overnight at their remote destination.

Colin said: "As well as the satisfaction of knowing that we could be the first to swim this difficult crossing, we will also be able to enjoy staying on St Kilda.

"I can't think of a better way to celebrate our achievement when we get there."

The team are still looking for financial support to pull off the challenge, as well as charity donations.


"Everyone thinks I'mad to attempt this big ocean crossing


TEAM John Dyer and Colin Macleod


AGAINST THE TIDE Harsh weather and waves could make the going tough for the fundraising team
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 16, 2014
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