Swimmer battles jellyfish and freezing tides to set North Channel crossing record

  • Report by Fiona Marley Paterson

A swimmer from America has become the first person to complete a two-way crossing of the North Channel between Dumfries and Galloway and Northern Ireland.

40-year-old Sarah Thomas, who recovered from breast cancer four years ago, completed the swim in just under 22 hours without a wetsuit, while being stung by jellyfish.

Afterwards she said: "It's like this really sharp zap and it just it burns and it hurts. And your whole body is saying, get me out of this."

Sarah, from Colorado, was only wearing a swimsuit, goggles and a swim-cap. Credit: Sarah Thomas

She swam from Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway to County Antrim in Northern Ireland and back again, approximately 42 miles.

Initially only supposed to swim to Ireland, she missed out on that record for women by two minutes, and so decided to turn around and do something no one had ever done before.

She said, "I was like, What a waste to have done like the hardest part and then not turn around and try and give it a go when I know the conditions are going to be better so turning it around. About four hours in, I was saying I am exhausted. I'm shivering. I don't feel great.

"And then truly, all of a sudden, Scotland was right in front of us. I can't even tell you how beautiful this beach in Scotland was because it was just a very gradual, nice sandy incline and beach. And then just to walk slowly out of the water and into the sand."

Sarah arrived at a beach near Portpatrick. Credit: Sarah Thomson

It is considered to be one of the hardest swims in the world because of the jellyfish, cold and strong tides.