Monday 13 February 2023

Lake Taupo, New Zealand, 40.2km - A British first, 4th February 2023

Did you know that Lake Taupo is on the site of a huge volcano ‘caldera’ that has produced two of the world's most violent eruptions in geologically recent times? Not erupted for ca. 1800 years……scary

Lake Taupo (slap bang in middle of north Island of New Zealand above) must be classed as one of the ultimate freshwater swimming challenges globally as it is considered the largest lake by surface area in New Zealand, one of the (if not the) largest lake in Australasia and at 40.2km a tougher test than an English Channel which itself is way shorter (ca. 33km) and the EC affords more buoyancy (therefore much easier on the shoulders). It has been said that you can put the entirety of Singapore within the surface area of this lake! Until I entered the water at little Waihi beach on my birthday 4th February 2023 no British person had even attempted it although it had been successfully swum by ca.40 Kiwis and a couple of Aussies - including fewer than a handful of people who had completed a 2-way (yes, that’s over 80km!). 

(The start is usually at Waihi Bay (bottom left) and finish at Taupo town (top right) with the island marking the 1/2 way mark)

The dust hadn’t even settled for a week after my successful 45.3km Lake Ontario swim 2nd-3rd August 2022 when I decided the next part of the Stillwater 8 was in my sights: Lake Taupo (pronounced locally as ‘Toe Paw’). My email to Philip Rush on 9th August 2022 got the wheels in motion:

‘Hi, I have been given your details by a mutual friend in Helen Conway. My name is Mark Sheridan and I live in Kent in the UK. I am keen to head out to NZ to complete the first British swim of Lake Taupo. I have done a little bit of swimming (!) but wondering what prerequisites are and whether we could sort dates for next year’. Phil replied immediately with a couple of options - one for January and one week in February but I opted for the latter to use January for training (including the Steve Wand 100x100s which takes place that month) and the lake would have more chance to warm up - in the end my solo was the first of the Taupo swim season.

Philip Rush isn’t just a great pilot, to call him an accomplished swimmer would be underplaying his credentials. He swam the EC 10 times. His record-breaking 3-way English Channel time from 1987 still stands over 35 years on! (see CSPF records here). He was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1985! No pressure then!

Just to arrive at the start line for this swim presented its very own logistical challenges. Not only is Taupo ca. 11,500 miles from where I live in the UK which presents significant jet-lag & related travel issues. In the week leading up to my departure from London on 27th January, Auckland had been inundated with rain during a recent cyclone and had seen some days with a years rainfall within a single 24-hour period. Before I even landed the local authorities had declared a 5 day state of emergency. I intended to fly LHR > DUB > AKL. In my last day in the office, on Friday 27th Jan (and only a few hours before my flight) one of my colleagues informed my that his sister who lives in Auckland couldn’t get back directly as her flight from Japan got re-routed to Brisbane mid-flight.

I had arrived in Heathrow very early for a 10pm flight believing I had completed all my necessary paperwork but was then informed by the check-in desk that I hadn’t completed a visa of NZ Esta form. This took at least an hour of panic with much help from the lovely Emirates staff to sort out. Got on the plane pretty stressed but nothing that a couple of glasses of champagne couldn’t sort out…..

Once in Dubai the same flight the day before mine had to return to Dubai after a 7 hours > a 14 hour round-trip flight to nowhere. Amazingly I was met in Dubai and informed that my scheduled connection still stood albeit 4 hours late….the flight the day after got cancelled given another storm was due in Auckland but our flight had a window to get there. Anyway - I arrived but 4 hours late which was a result in the circumstances. (At the time of writing this blog from the comfort of being back home I count myself fortunate to have been able to pull my return forward by a day to miss cyclone Gabrielle which meant my flight to Dubai was the last one for Emirates for 3 days - quite apt having downpours on the way in and way out!)

I had recruited my usual pairing of female crew. I did a review of facebook friends who might live remotely near that part of the world and Helen Conway and Sylvia Wanstall leapt out at me. Helen lives in Tasmania is no stranger to marathon swimming being one of only 9 people in history to have also swum 70km Lake Geneva and had also completed a Taupo solo (as part of an aborted double) a few years earlier. We had met in the registration queue for the Windermere swim in England in 2014 and then also serendipitously in Arizona for the SCAR swim in 2015. I was relieved to scoop her up from Auckland airport after a couple of days recovering from my flights. We at least had ourselves and all our bags! Sylvia used to live in England and likes her winter swimming but also has done a Coniston and an unsuccessful 12-hour EC attempt so also no stranger to being around the marathon swimming world. She lives in Turangi (very near the southerly most part of the lake) and is building a house in Taupo plus I remembered she loved crewing on the English Channel also for our mutual friend Dan Simonelli who was one of my 3 Lake Ontario crew. Small world.

(Me and the crew for this mission taken the day after the swim in the centre of town - note the union flag the right way up!). Victorious.

Anyway, on 4th February the alarm went off at 03:45 so we could scoop up kit and head over to the start 1 hour from our wonderful Airbnb at/overlooking Acacia Bay near the finish. I called my Mum and this would be the only day when I could call her to wish her happy birthday (13 hours behind in England) and at the same time been celebrating my own!! Priceless. 

Before we started all the feeds etc were shuttled from the rib to the big boat in the darkness whilst Sylvia kindly applied a decent layer of sun cream P20 (factor 50), zinc sudocrem and Vaseline under the armpits/on tops of shoulder to prevent chafe. 

(Picture above of starting 'beach'/slipway with debris galore post recent floods - this is where the pumice stone floats in the water - I head-butted a couple of big pieces of wood in the first hour which was largely unavoidable but probably knocked some sense into me & sorted out my jet lag)

At 06:06 with daylight gradually appearing we got underway. Phil the pilot clocked the water at 20c (a temperature he had suggested to expect on his original emails) and my idea of perfection. My winter training venue at Charlton Lido is heated to 20-21c so that was ideal for this and this was even warmer than 19c we had when originally dipping in the lake at Acacia Bay. 

The first 3 hours felt effortless. I even commented to the crew that it felt like i was doing nothing. Thumping out my typical 48-50 strokes per minute rate I settled into my routine, reminded myself I was swimming on holiday on my birthday and enjoyed the views of going past the town of Kuratau which were now fully in daylight. Apparently we vanquished the first 10km in 3 hours 18. There was almost nowhere else in the world I would rather have been at that moment.

I didn’t look ahead too much but now the whole lake was wide open with a small headwind of 3-5mph and the next landmark of the island (only island on the lake) marking the 1/2 way mark. After my 7th hourly feed we finally passed it but the landmark provided a bit of an optical illusion as I thought I was at/close to it on hour 6. Having been told that was now behind me I informed the crew ‘well that was a mind-f*ck wasn’t it’!

Little did I know at the time but we apparently swam directly over the epicentre of a 5.0 earthquake which was felt across the whole of the north island (pic below). We were none the wiser at the time but I said to Helen Conway that each swim has a story and this was special to ours! See link here

My hourly feeds of heavily diluted maxim (one scoop per 500ml) with orange squash were supplemented by some salty new potatoes I had boiled up the evening before. Nice to have real food (rather than loads of fabricated sugars) and hadn’t used potatoes on a swim since 2012 which was silly as they work so well. I had many messages back n’ forth on feeding strategies with Courtney Moates-Paulk (no.9 Lake Geneva soloist) as she swore by mashed potato on her swim administered in squeezy bottles. Genius & must try that next time.

Within the final 10-12km of the swim I switched to flat coke and some Anzac cookies (a local find which are oat-based but similar to a flap jack) - thought it would be rude not to use a local treat on the swim. Feeding plan was spot on and we never had to bring them forward and stuck to hourly so the crew could swan around and enjoy themselves.

I then hit the wall. Perfectly normal during the swim where the body takes a while to convert from fat stores rather than immediate feeds. The wind died to an almost flat calm and the lake was now like glass with the only ripples caused by the swimmer and the boats. The water was stunning fresh blue and I could see at least 12 foot below me in this crystal clear water but didn’t see a fish the whole day. Mike on the rib took some GoPro footage of my stroke under water. Helen was presenting the world with regular updates on Facebook complaining it was all getting rather boring (!) and people were following the tracker in real time. No pressure! Given my feeds were hourly the crew had nothing to do but encourage and encourage they did. The stretch from the island to Rangatira point marking the door to the final 10km stretch into Taupo town itself was mildly tortuous and never came closer. Hour by hour kept clocking off the miles/feeds still notching up 48spm. 

Eventually we pulled alongside and past the houses & small jetty at the point and the jut of trees which markedly encroached into the bay I had seen mentioned as 8.3km to go. I could now at least tell I was moving and the mind games/optical illusions were over as had perspective of the trees moving behind me as I went passed them. My massive slump was far behind me. Pilot Mike informed me that I was also going to now benefit slightly from the current as the outflow at Taupo of the Waikato river aided the swimmer. Bonus. I knew in my head that the western shore now had 2 bays to pass before the double bay at Acacia bay then we were home and hosed. I filled my head of thoughts of finishing and that I had 9 days left to swan around taking in the sights/sounds of this beautiful country. What was I going to do with all that time and no swim?!

The Rib switched over crews and now I had Phil back on the Rib and for the first time of the whole swim I was allowed to hear a distance measurement ‘2.2km to go’.

I decided to count to 100 in my head at least 10 times and then I was gonna be in the last 1km…..Acacia Bay was long behind us now and only a short stretch with trees on the left and the odd bungalow. The boat traffic increased slightly and I stayed very close to the support vessels to avoid any mishaps.

I knew I had it cracked and the was much activity on the boat in what was now dusk with Helen and Sylvia putting on swimming cosies, caps and googles for the final ca. 300m. Would they keep up ?! Light was fading fast but I could make out the flashing markers to the river channel and the yacht club finishing beach. Yes - I could now see the bottom (just about) through my tinted goggles and the water became shallower. Swam over the last set of rocks and managed to get my feet on some sand to walk up a very pleasantly-slopping beach to exit the water. YES!  Stop watch clocked at 14:46 and the first British swim of Lake Taupo was registered. I was met by Phil who shook my hand and gave me a hug and said it was the easiest swim he had ever piloted for which meant the world to me. What a great day out.


(Pic from start taken in daylight the day after the swim. Can't see 1/2 way let alone the finish!)

(Pic below from finish - note jut of trees on right hand side but can just about make out the island at 1/2 way in the very far distance at 20km)

Flights - I flew Emirates from LHR via DUB to AKL (Could have flown BA via Kuala Lumpur but interesting that the English cricket team were on my flights and don’t even fly BA any more!)
Hotel - I spent 4 nights at the Grand, Sky City in Auckland (complete with its own 25m single lane - ideal for last minute training and overcoming jet lag)

Car - Hired from Hertz via Car Trawler - process was dead easy and staff brilliant. I only hired a car on day 3 in NZ so I didn’t have to drive on jet-lag. Easy public transport from Auckland centre to airport (train and bus).
Accommodation in Taupo - Rented a house in Acacia Bay (view below) via AirBnB. Would defo stay in that area again. Only a few mins from the finish line and Acacia Bay itself ideal for swimming in as quite sheltered.
Restaurants - There are loads but our favourite is The Bistro. Would go out of my way to eat there again but eating out in NZ is very expensive.
Swimming - my favourite swim spot was at Kinloch (nice 500m protected circuit with no duck weed and not many swans.
Lemme know if need more!

Appendix - Crew notes from the day's proceedings!

Helen Conway (HC)

06:06 - Start - water glassy. 20.2c water, Air ca. 18c
06:14 - stroke rate (S/R) 52 spm
06:37 - 2km done
07:06 - 1st feed > 1 potato + 500ml orange squash with maxim mix. ‘Nice pee’
07:19 - Water 19.4c. Lucky duck is out watching on. S/R 49
07:39 - Stopped for pee
08:06 - 2nd feed at 7km mark (but 6.3km on HC’s Garmin watch) 1x potato and 500ml maxim mix & very long pee. Ripples on water now with gentle breeze from north West. 19.4c water and s/r 47 spm. Swimmer wants 2 potatoes next feed
09:06 - 3rd feed at 9.2km. 2 potatoes and 500ml maxim orange squash. Sun is out and shining down. Crew is warm and happy. Another pee. Water 19.8c and s/r 49 spm
Crew Change

Sylvia Wanstall (SW)

09:19 - 48 spm. Nice and steady. Brilliant. ‘Bloody flies’. The sun is out lovely and warm on back. Beautiful & flat water ‘long may it last’. At 3 hours 18 mark hit 10km down ‘whoop whoop’. Steady breathing to the left
09:25 - Breath to the right (for a little look around?). Nice steady pace.
09:34 - Sylvia breathed in a fly & took ages to get rid of. 
09:51 - 50 spm ‘long and steady stroke’
10:01 - pee stop
10:05 - 4th feed at 12km ‘feeling fab’ - 500ml maxim squash with 2 potatoes. Another pee then off. RIB did a circle to get rid of water inside. Conditions incredible. Sun shining and flat water measured at 20.7c. Clouds off in the distance ‘what a day’. ‘Happy Birthday Mark’.
10:13 - oops knocked lucky duck off his perch
10:20 - Mike puts GoPro in water to do some under-water filming. Speedboat domes near by causing waves. Swimmer 48 spm
10:36 - stroke looking really long and strong. Wow 52 spm. Thoughts you had sped up a bit ‘well done’.
10:42 - slight breeze building but swimming strong
10:48 - pee stop
11:05 - 5th feed - 500ml maxim mix with 2 potatoes
11:20 - 50 spm - couple of sneaky backward glances - lovely long and strong stroke ‘looking good’
11:43 - 48 spm still long and strong
11:50 - pee stop
12:05 - 6th feed - 2 potatoes and 500ml maxim mix. Pee
Crew change


12:49 - pee stop
13:08 - 7th feed - 500ml maxim mix with 2 potatoes - we told swimmer he is over 1/2 way and said he’s ‘happy to have the island now behind him’. Water now 21.7c with ripples across water now from north East. S/R 49 spm. Mike radios in that there was a 5.0 richter earthquake at 12:14 exactly where we are now at 13:18 at a depth of 81 meters. Mark has swum through an earthquake!
13:51 - pee (like clockwork)
14:08 - 8th feed - 400ml of maxim mix with 2 potatoes. Thinks solid feed working well as making him feel satiated for the whole hour. Had a quick pee. Crew in other boat jumps in water to cool off. Water now 23.4c and S/R 49 spm.
15:06 - 9th feed - 250ml of maxim mix with 2 potatoes. Said wants flat coke and Anzac cookies at next feed. 2 min feed as also peeing. ‘Does my wife know i am here’ he asks.
Crew Change


15:28 - 47 spm
15:36 - Small goggle adjustment. Swimming well. Noticed chafing earlier on right shoulder and right side - hoping no sun burn as sun very strong now. Water 23.7c
15:55 - Swimmer takes 2 sneaky glances back but swimming well ‘whoop whoop’. 
16:05 - 10th feed - 500ml flat coke and 1 Anzac biscuit plus a pee. Mark in good spirits. HC reads out some facebook messages from Sam Jones, Bel and Pat Leegg. Swimming strong, very relaxed and comfy. 
16:11 - S/R 50 spm. ‘Whoop whoop’. Pilot change with Phil out and Mike in RIB. ‘Fabulous swimming Mark long and strong’.
16:28 - ‘What the heck I’ve come over all emotional watching you swim. The fact you are here in NZ…a swim buddy from the UK…Messages from people I know in the UK feels too surreal. You are swimming so well my friend…oh bugger I’m blubbering again’….
16:33 - 48 spm - water so flat and perfect conditions
16:50 - 50 spm
16:52 - goggle adjustment
17:05 - 11th feed - 500ml flat coke and 1 Anzac cookie & pee
17:20 - S/R 50 spm . Steady but sure and counting down those KMs…’flip no wonder I am hot, Mike’s watch has the air temps as 32/33c. 
17:32 - Goggle needed sorting in right eye. Now 9.2km from finish
18:05 - 12th feed - 500ml flat coke and 1 Anzac cookie & wee
Crew Change


18:42 - S/R 47 spm. Mike observes stroke is starting to look a little tired. Quite a few boats now and wash. Phil moves main boat to other side to give some buffer. Water 21.7c
18:47 - Tourist sailing boat swum by for a clap and cheer to give a boost. 
18:54 - Stopped for pee (like clockwork). Swimmer says ‘I love it when you talk dirty Helen’ - swimmer in good spirits and knows he’s now moving at a good pace. 
19:06 - 13th feed - 400ml flat coke and 1 Anzac biscuit. Had another cheer squad from sailing boat come alongside. Lots of cobwebs in the air. S/R 48 spm. Swimmer asks ‘have you found our house yet?’
19:19 - 1min pees stop. Swimmer wouldn’t pee before ‘whilst he had an audience’ Wind now from the north West and picking up. ‘I have seen where we had a swim the other day’…not yet but I’m looking out for it. 
19:28 - Sylvia goes to sit on the side of the boat and almost goes for a swim!
20:01 - 14th feed. Swimmer stopped for pee so decided to give him last feed. 200ml of flat Coke with 1 Anzac cookie. Swimmer very happy to hear it is last feed. Passed on love from Emily and messages from Adrian. Party boat near by - hard to hear but now 2.2km to go & sun goes down over Acacia Bay. Wind picked up from north and swimmer S/R 47 spm. 

Crew then jumps in with 300m to go and finishes swim with swimmer out in front clearing the water. Watch stopped at 14 hours 46 mins. Swimmer and crew in fine spirits. Changed and then home for shower, dinner and a well-earned sleep!

Sunday 7 August 2022

Lake Ontario 45.3 km - A British Male first, 2nd/3rd August 2022

Getting my name forever embossed on the plaque below at Queens Royal Park in Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario was my main inspiration for taking on this totally epic swim. The beach in front of the bench in the middle of the pic below is conveniently the start line!…..observe you cannot make out the finish which is Toronto in the distance ca. 50km away! Unsurprising perhaps given this is undertaking is 3x Windermere or 1.5x the English Channel…...When you stand right by it you can’t believe it isn’t the sea and have to double take when in the water as it is fresh not salty.

My crew - I gave this specially hand-picked rabble a rather affectionate label ‘rent-a-mob’ but probably the most professional crew anyone can be lucky enough to assemble for a swim of this nature! (From left to right: Dan Simonelli (from San Diego), Amanda Bell (from Stockton, UK), Me, Sam Jones (from Plymouth, UK)) with local Christine Arsenault (pilot and LO soloist herself). Not in picture Christine’s husband Rick (top geezer) plus we were ably overseen by 2 highly skilled observers/swim masters Loren King and Katharine Borczak from the Solo Swims of Ontario governing body/safety organisation.

The start - weather not great hence no spectators save for 2 in the gazebo built for a 1989 John Travolta film The Experts which never got taken down (and the film was a flop btw!)
Departure ca. 11am on the 2nd August…tough 20 meters of submerged rocks to navigate before one could even think about taking a stroke… advice if doing again would be to wear crocs and throw to crew once thru this bit…..Sporting my British & Irish Lions Budgy Smugglers for first Brit…..

My mate the lucky duck helping me cope with tough conditions for the first 20%…decided to take it easy instead of fighting it! Watching the waves crash over his head as we navigated the sandbar at the mouth of the Niagara River was highly amusing. Crew on the zodiac got totally soaked!

And then the whole world became a feast of blues (under and above the water) for the afternoon…hourly feeds with 12 Oatmeal Crème Pies consumed during the undertaking….First 5 feeds maxim then next five flat coke then back on maxim for remainder…….this place is simply vast - Lake Ontario is 193 miles long by 53 miles wide (at its largest dimensions)! Probs not ideal undertaking if you struggle with agoraphobia? 

Then the crew observed the sunset over Toronto with the sun bouncing off the CN Tower making it look like a rocket! (I tried not to look up as thought that would be the slippery road to hell but obviously very hard mentally to realise you were making progress as couldn’t see land much from start to finish!) 

Light turned into darkness with the flick of a switch around 9pm….with a spectacular city within reach (kind of)….I spent most of the swim in my head thinking I was swimming Lake Memphremagog (Vermont to Quebec 2019 swim with separate blog) so that was my way of coping with this! (Easy to see main support boat R&R piloted by Christine and Rick ahead).

Wasn’t 100% certain beforehand whether I would have to swim thru the entire night for this swim but we were treated to one of the most incredible sunrises ever! More blues tinged with oranges….with lights of boat bottom left. I noticed that the air temp was pretty fresh now as members of the crew were wearing jackets plus hats, drinking warm drinks and rubbing hands….

Eventually, after 41km, I made the executive decision to land the swim at the Leslie Street Spit (rather than Marilyn Bell Park) so we had ‘only’ 5km (compared with 8km to MBP) to go which I remembered was 50x100m or 1/2 a Steve Wand (a charity swim I run each winter)….10 laps of the lake but obviously no gimmie!

Massive relief and joy to land the swim in a time of 18:59:52 sneaking in 8 seconds under 19 hours. Didn’t even require exiting the water just touching a dry rock! And in the parlance of Dan Simonelli I became ‘The First Brit Man’ to do this….couldn’t have summed it up better Lieutenant Dan!

The route from the start at Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto. Thanks for coming. Ca.50% longer than the English Channel but also fresh water affording way less buoyancy.

Got dressed and hadn’t experienced shaking like that since completing Loch Lomond in 2012 (probs a combo of water temp, exertion and time in the water)….Would sum my personal challenge of Lake Ontario like swimming 3x Lake Windermere’s back-to-back with the first one around 20c, then the next at 17c with the last one at 15c (progressively colder which is mentally very tough indeed)….Shoulders felt totally fine afterwards (went for a bob/heads-up breatstroke swim later on the same day!)…only thing that bothered me was a blood-shot right eye given goggle irritation - nothing that anti-biotic eye ointment that I brought with me didn’t rectify in 3 days. I don’t recall complaining about much and didn’t really gripe about the cold although was cognisant that there were cold patches but the 35km weekend I did in Loch Tay with Adrian Rotchell (training for Loch Ness himself) stood me (and him) in great stead (thanks to  Colleen Blair)!

Luckily the actual temps on the day were slightly higher than predicted but have never swum through so many different temperatures in the same body of water ever (probs what makes this the challenge that it is). Upwelling central. Oh and the Niagara River was never 8c as suggested below….lol

We ‘aved it - I reckon >50% of this achievement down to rent-a-mob (my executive support crew). 

And we never got bored of the sunsets which were a 5 min walk from our Airbnb at Ryerson park…

Where we struggled to find a space to put our towels down during the day….

We also took the opportunity to pay our respects to the grave of Matthew Webb (1st person to swim the English Channel but lost his life when attempting to swim the whirlpool on the Niagara river). He is buried at Oakwood cemetery just across the border on the US side. (

The whirlpool where our Matthew came out 2nd best. Grade 6 rapids are led into a cul-de-sac and therefore have to push anti clockwise before exiting on the right (eventually into Lake Ontario further on). It is believed from the guides that whole tree trunks are whirling around over 100 feet down never to re-emerge. 1st pic from US side and 2nd below from Canadian side. 

The first Brit to swim Lake Ontario was a lady called Brenda Fisher (from Grimsby) in 1956:

If, like me, you failed Geography at school you might find this illustration helpful - observe ALL the other lakes flow into Lake Ontario eventually (via the Niagara Falls!) before heading out of the Gulf of St Lawrence. (

Proof of completion of the swim here:

I will join this exclusive list of Lake Ontario swimmers:

Can’t face another one of these for a while having worked my way thru an entire box but this is the feed of champions! lol…need to get back on the new/mashed potatoes!

Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test (END-WET)- ‘The Longest Swim Race in North America’ - A British first, 18th June 2022

According to, the Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test (END-WET) is a 36-mile down-river swim ultra-marathon  where solo or relay swimmers will travel from rural ND into East Grand Forks, MN, on the mighty Red River of the North.  It is termed ‘the longest swim race in North America’!

So another British first in the offing but not without its hazards just to make it to the start line!! Within 3 weeks of the swim all entrants received an email that the current river level was deemed too high (terrific to receive when thrown a lot of money at the expedition but luckily levels receded to be the 2nd fastest flow in history).  For me the trip involved post-pandemic flight to Fargo (massive detour to avoid a storm) and transferring via Chicago (with slow baggage handlers) from London Heathrow (where the flight left 2 hours late but at least I got upgraded to 1st class!). 

Even on the day of the race, en route to the start line a deer ran out in front of the car at 04:30 and I don’t know how I missed it. We were also having to set up kayaks and gear in a car park with lightning and thunder (which wasn’t forecast or part of the briefing).

Tom Linthicum (my Tahoe pilot on left below) generously made the journey from Sacramento to paddle for me and hang out for the weekend. Commensurate professional, legend and joy to be around. Given winds said it was the hardest paddle he had ever done!

Finally made it (err to the start)! Would have thought the name more appropriate for an end?

A very muddy river where the water temp remained around 72 Fahrenheit throughout (22c in British money)

Ominous dark skies which messed with us for the first 1/3rd:

As a prior-year finisher, Kate Howell, put it ‘all you see is brown, brown then green’!! I can’t recall seeing my hands other than feeding but blasting thru a mile each 15 mins is a proper novelty!

The Finish…what you might not to be able to appreciate if you weren’t there are the 42 mph winds, organisers worried bits of tree could injure people and just exiting the muddy water was tough given it was easily knee-high.

Lovely touch when organiser Don gave me my unique dog-tag finisher number (#160 in history to complete) with a time of 9hours 40mins - thrilled have have come in comfortably within the 10 hour mark and saved myself and my kayaker any further punishment! 10th out of 15 with winner Jamie Proffitt taking the gold at 8:32:00.


Part of the flood defences for the town - extreme snowstorms in the winter combined with deluge of rain in the spring creates a dangerous mixture of the town. Then there’s unpredictable heat and storms in the summer….no wonder North Dakota is sparsely inhabited!

Another stunning road where the sky goes on forever and there’s nothing to contend with other than unpredictable deer!

Downtown Grand Forks where we had a fab & cheap loft-style airBnB only 5 mins walk from the finishing line (we must have looked a proper state walking back)!

Course Map:

We ‘aved it…

Sunday 15 August 2021

Round Jersey Solo 51 km Swim - 11th August 2021

95% of this iconic & unique swim was an absolute hoot. You could sense the assisting tidal tow for ca. 75% of it and I was fortunate enough to have favourable weather/sea conditions. Some people turn up for this swim and get weathered out (more than once in some cases). Must say that despite much cold water training, the water temperature never felt totally comfortable given it's the Atlantic @ 17c at best. Therefore had to ensure to keep moving to keep warm but managed to thump out a reasonable time of 10hours 21mins (one of the faster times on the course). The Pilot is ultimate professional and I had marathon-swimming royalty for crew & observer. 

We raised over £8k for Macmillan: Just Giving Page

This was the 148th swim Round Jersey in history - got my name on the board here: Roll of honour

Now for a quick geography refresher (a subject I failed at GCSE btw!):

According to Wikipedia, Jersey is an island which measures 118.2 square kilometres or 45.6 square miles. It lies about 14 miles west of the Cotentin Peninsula of Normandy, France and about 100 miles due south of Great Britain. It's the largest and southernmost of the Channel Islands and part of the British Isles with a maximum land elevation of 143m above sea level:

The swim start and finish is at the Elizabeth Castle breakwater (6 o'clock on image below). Swim is typically run to benefit from the spring tide and has only ever been swum in an anti-clockwise direction (to south east corner first!). Someone one day will be silly enough to take it on clockwise but why would you go to the dentist opting for no anaesthetic? 

Quite interesting to add this old chart below as it depicts most of the small rocks that have caught many a boat out in history (note especially rocky south east corner but loads of random rocks jutting out everywhere):

After a champion night's sleep, both Swimmer and crew rendezvoused with the pilot at La Collette Yacht Basin at 06:15am (none of this swimming through the night nonsense with this one)!

Only the best for me with proper open-water swim royalty in attendance on this occasion. 

L>R: Kate Robarts (Observer (previously one of my Geneva solo crew)), Cliff Golding (crew/greaser), Sam Jones (crew/reserve pilot). Only 5 English Channel swims and 4 Round Jersey swims between these pressure Shezza - better bring yer A-game geezer!!

Cliffy (on right below) discussing the finer points of 'zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance' with horizontal chilled-out pilot Matt (on left) below. If not sure what to ask a pilot to strike up a conversation, ask him something about boats! 

After a decent layer of sun cream & vaseline (thanks Cliffy) time to drop one's warm self into the freezing cold briny for a very civilised start (no scrambling up beach required). Thanks to Jamie Nettleton for 'The Rugby Pod' budgie smugglers. Episode 50. Go to minute 60 for shout out on Spotify

Had to touch the eastern side of Elizabeth Castle breakwater and wait for boat horn to start:

And we're off!

First arm stroke. Only 28,349 to go......

First ca. 2 hour spent being guided by pilot Richard in 'Lioncub' (on right below) as despite being near high-tide not much draught for larger boat 'Lionheart' (on left). (Can pick me out just aft starboard side of lion cub). 

For some of these first 2 hours from the start (6 o'clock to 4 o'clock on the south east corner at La Rocque) could sometimes see the sea bed with the odd piece of rock sticking up submerged but almost protruding the surface at high tide  - I almost swam into one of them which would have been rather uncomfortable!

I returned the day after to the south east corner at low tide and it's like a completely different moonscape (photo taken atop Green Island facing east towards La Rocque):

Rendez-vous took place just after being swept around La Rocque (south Eastern corner) - I decided to bob for the occasion. You can also find on You Tube: You Tube video rounding La Rocque:('This is so much fun....wish every swim were like this....I'm having a wee') LOL

I then had my first feed (hourly thereafter) and for the first half the menu comprised of a carb-loader type drink with the odd flapjack to munch on (switching to flat Fevertree Cola for 2nd half).

We then proceeded to blast up the eastern side past St Catherine's breakwater (I took some footage the day before of how the water moves. This really would be impossible to swim against it and realised just how treacherous these waters are). 

The northern leg was tough with a very confused wind against tide. Yet more rocks to dodge (Paternosters in the background) and again some brilliant piloting skills to find the most direct route.

I got a massive lift as at 4 hours 37 mins into the swim I was 1/2 way (even started to entertain the idea that I was on for a new record given a simple doubling putting me ahead of Ross Wisby's 2015 record of 9 hours 26 mins....). We were travelling in this run of tide at 5 knots (8km per hour!). Feeling good and much more in the tank to 'ave it' for the 2nd half. Jersey’s version of the Eiffel Tower to mark 1/2 way: 

Soon approaching the north-west corner with Grosnez castle in ca. 6 hours and my feeds switched to flat Fevertree Cola (other brands are available) with more nutritious flapjacks which get properly stuck in your teeth therefore providing lasting hit!

Then we rounded the corner and found ourselves in the enormous horse-shoe shaped bay at St. Ouen with Corbiere lighthouse at the end representing the gateway to the homestraight. Was warned about the fact this western side would take 2 hours so didn't look up and grafted hard opting to look just to the side or slightly behind. You could make out aircraft taking off so I knew I was over half way past the bay once the ascending aircraft were then behind me.

Just after 8 hours we rounded the majestic Corbiere lighthouse and I switched momentarily to the port side of the boat for the ‘money shot’ photo opportunity:

The stretch from this landmark past St Brelade's Bay to the Noirmont representing the entrance to final St. Aubin's bay was very tough and I was running on fumes having given it too much beans during the prior 9 hours in the cold! Then great skills from crewperson Sam who unbeknownst to me subtly dunked a scoop of carb powder into my next flat coke feed for the final 40 minute push to the finish and the Western wall at Elizabeth castle breakwater. The end was now in sight across St. Aubin's bay and I was giving it everything I had.

Reached out, lunged for the wall like GB's Duncan Scott at the olympics.....Observer Kate stopped the watch at 10 hours 21mins. My own olympic event and one of the faster times in history (would have bitten your arm off for that time before starting). Not bad for an old geezer! Plenty of claps and cheering from the boat - all wrapped up before dinner!!

Feeling of relief and wondering how many Big Mac meals I was going to eat guilt-free for dinner (easiest thing to get down given swollen salt-water tongue). Smashed it - get in! : 

Here's the swim track here (thanks to Kate and Steve Robarts for letting me use their Garmin tracker and for sending across my route):

Recommendations if you're planning this swim

1. Accommodation - We stayed at SACO serviced apartments on Pier Road in St. Helier. A walk to harbour and many nice restaurants. Had a pull-down double murphy bed in sitting room (for the daughter who came with) and kitchen for sorting all swim kit. Clean with loads of hot water, washing machine and tumble drier. Much nicer we thought than a hotel. Could have cooked in the kitchen but with so many nice restaurants on offer we never bothered! Cost £1365 for the week.

2. Flights/Car - Flew BA from London Heathrow and hired a car (Toyota Aygo) via Avis. Flights were 30mins out, 40mins return and car was perfect for parking, touring and for girls to follow the swim. Automatic car cost £661.50 with all the insurances zero excess.

3. Pilot - I used professional pilot Matt Clarke who runs Lionheart Pilotage . He's a very talented individual - man of few words and so relaxed almost horizontal. Was £1450 for piloting swim (1/2 price of the English Channel!) plus £125 to Jersey Long Distance Swimming Club (JLDSA) to ratify/observe the swim. JLDSC also offers piloting services:

4. JLDSC club swims - Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings. This was an ideal way to relax post-travel and get to know more about swimming in/around the island. Jersey probably boasts more English Channel swimmers per capita than anywhere else in the world. A charming bunch who made us feel so welcome. Even presented us with Bacon sarnie after Sunday 7am session. Many thanks Jenny and Chantelle. 

5. Training - I spent the coldest weeks of the summer leading to a 6 hour swim in 13.2c on 5th June '21 with the Dover Channel Training (DCT) group every Saturday morning. Once complete I then switched to fresh water and  loads of 1 hour sessions with the odd 10km sessions thrown in with very specific rep times to keep intensity (and speed) up. Seb Coe was always an advocate of quality over quantity and that certainly works for me. The lap of St Andrews Lakes is 600m and we'd do 16 of those in 11min reps (including rest) - I actually felt more tired after that 10km Saturday session than I did after this Round Jersey as the lake if fresh water with less buoyancy. Thanks to Adrian Rotchell for completing most of the sessions with me although had no major swim booked himself (other than swimming on holiday). LOL


So chuffed to have executed this swim. A very special day indeed accompanied by great friends. Without the pandemic, I might well have missed this one in favour of British firsts in the US but this swim is totally unique like nothing else on anyone’s potential open water bucket list. The places that marathon swimming has brought us to! 95% of the swim was physically no bother....there's always the final stretch which is tough in any swim but as long as you can put one arm in front of the other you can keep going. That's the reality.
The mental aspect was never hard at all having supported people close to me  through cancer treatments during the year. Being able to give something back to the Macmillan nurses is the least I could do.
Thank you again for all of you who supported me. Your generosity as ever is amazing.
Until the next escapade!

Unofficial observer report taken by Kate Robarts (warning some colourful language).......

Mark Sheridan  Round Jersey

11th August 2021

Lionheart Pilotage - Matthew Clarke

Start - Elizabeth Castle east wall             Finish – Elizabeth Castle west wall

Start time – 06:57                                 Finish time – 17:18

Swim time – 10 hours 21 minutes 19 seconds

PoB – Matt Clarke, Sam Jones, Cliff Golding, Kate Robarts

We arrive at Lionheart at 6.15am and begin unloading the trolley. Shezza helpfully unloads his own bag but this results in the other end of the trolley landing on Sam’s foot.

Much banter onboard the boat. Matt says he’s still trying to get used to sharing his boat with semi-naked men. Meanwhile, Shezza is wondering if one new tub of Vaseline will be enough. He’s slathered with Kids’ Factor 50 sun lotion and greased up by Cliffy, whilst the rest of the crew clamour to book therapy as a result of his new Budgie Smugglers.

At 6.47 Lionheart is underway for the brief journey from the marina to the wall for the start. Shezza reminds the crew not to forget to put Lucky Duck where he can be seen and points out the pack of Velcro pads. 

The weather is sunny and calm with mirror-like conditions.

Shezza climbs down the ladder and swims to the wall for the start, to be accompanied by Richard in Lion Cub for the first two hours through the Gutters. 

He touches the wall, waits for the signal and starts. It is 6:57am.

For the next two hours he will be quite a distance away from Lionheart, so crew will see him only through binoculars from deeper water. Richard will report progress via radio.

As Shezza gets underway and settles into his swim, Cliff may be seen wandering around forlornly, carrying Lucky Duck upside down. The morning dew prevents him from attaching LD to the bow so it’s a waiting game.

Around 8am, Richard reports that Shezza has swum over a rock, just below the surface, shallow enough to touch it with his hands. He’s stopped to have a laugh about it and have a pee break. Richard jovially blames Matt for the rock incident because he missed it when checking position.

Meanwhile, Cliffy goes to recce the possibility of attaching Lucky Duck. Nope, still too much dew.

Ten minutes later, Cliff can be seen disappearing to the bow with a cloth to see if he can solve the problem. Still no luck.

It appears from radio reports that Sea Swimmer II, the JLDSC club boat, actually made contact with that particular rock and called for possible assistance….but it transpires that all is well and it continues with the two man wetsuit relay, about 800m ahead of Shezza.

Cliff has a brainwave and attaches LD to the bow with a piece of string. He’s happy now.

At 8:20 Sam prepares the first feed of 350ml Maxim and summer fruits. Shezza will be fed after the breakwater at La Rocque.

Shezza arrives at La Rocque at 8:46, where Sal and a few others are waiting to cheer him on.

He stops swimming for a few minutes, allowing the tide to carry him along, smiling broadly and exclaiming, 

“This is brilliant… it’s just so much fun!”

He swims on past and into the harbour, where he has his feed from Sam and Cliff. It’s 8:58. Sam tells him not to swim on just yet because Matt isn’t at the wheel. Shez replies, “Good, gives me time for a piss.”

He and his crew discuss the possibility of overtaking the relay. Richard takes his leave and Shez thanks him and shouts that they need to arrange a beer later in the week. Richard waves and heads back to La Collette in Lion Cub.

Shezza is a very contented swimmer. Over the next hour, he gives Sam a thumbs up. The crew is outside, chatting, watching him and exclaiming over the huge swathes of seaweed he’s swimming through.

At 9:58, Shezza feeds well and takes a bit of flapjack from contortionist, Sam, who’s flat out with one arm through the railings. He’s loving it, (‘avin’ it). Matt teases him and offers to let Shez do it all again tomorrow. “I’ll hold you to that”, is the response.

Sea Swimmer II is about half a mile ahead. Lionheart passes St Cath’s b/w at around 3 hrs 15. The water is like glass and the sun is blazing. The crew have bacon rolls. (egg for Cliff).

At 10:30, Sam takes the helm to give Matt a break. There are slight ripples on the water and a little more breeze at 5- 9 kts. The wind is turning westerly. Water temperature is 17.9c and the air is 18.4.

Shezza is maintaining a stroke count of 47.

10:58 Cliff feeds Shez. He’s very happy and takes all his feed, requesting the same, but with another small piece of flapjack, at the next feed. Cliff explains that Lionheart was a little too far off the b/w at St Cath’s for Mark to see Em and Issie, but that they were there and they could see him. Shez has a pee and says, “This is all rather nice!”

11:27 It’s getting a little choppy now, Wind is at 8kts from WNW and is creating waves head on. He extends his glide slightly and looks very relaxed in the choppier water.

11:57 A feed with flapjack from Sam. Cliff reminds Shezza of the halfway mast and tells him he’s already past it. That was at 4 hrs 37 minutes. Sam points out Grosnez and Shez has a pee and says he can’t believe he can see Grosnez already. The crew tell him he’s doing a fabulous job and Cliff exclaims that he’s going to hang up his Speedos because he can’t swim like Shezza.

10 minutes later, Shezza stops to unwind a large swathe of seaweed, wrapped round his neck. In the next 15 minutes, the sea flattens out a little and Mark asks for a cookie with his next feed.

At this next feed, (12:56) the crew point out that a small seabird, probably a fulmar, has started following Shezza. It flies close to his feet, lands near him and bobs around, looking at him. Mark flicks water at it but it doesn’t want to leave.

Cliff confirms with Shez that he now wants to switch to flat coke for the rest of his feeds. He also tells him that Em can see him from Grosnez. S/c 43.

13:37 the water has calmed down. Mark is swimming across St Ouen’s Bay. Cliff is watching from the bow.

Just before his next feed, Mark asks for some flapjack with it. He says,

“It’s lovely here……apart from the company”

Cliff points out that he has a woman either side of him so it’s a bit dangerous to respond. 

Shezza grins and says, “Hangin’ with yer biatches!”

After the feed of flat coke and flapjack, Cliff points out how close Shezza is to the Lighthouse at Corbiere and that Emily and Issie will be there. Shez asks how far he has to there and Matt tells him about 15 minutes.

Cliff says, “Sorry conditions aren’t better”, as he surveys the totally calm water and Shez quips, “Yeah, can I have a glassy sea, please?”

After a warning from Sam, Matt manoeuvres Lionheart around to put Shezza to port, for the money shot with Corbiere as a backdrop. He plays to the camera with a wave and Sam gets the shot.

By 15:27 Lionheart is back on the other side and Shezza continues to swim in flat calm water. Five or six jetskis hug the coast towards the lighthouse.

Mark is very appreciative of the flat coke at his next feed and says, “That was long overdue!” Sam has added a scoop of Maxim to the coke as a boost.

Cliff points out Noirmont ahead and tells Shezza that once he’s passed that, he can go head down and reel it in.

Shez is relaxed and enjoying it. There is no pressure, fabulous scenery, calm water and a peaceful, happy boat. He has, as ever, maintained his technique superbly throughout. Crew bitch happily about how good he looks and what perfect conditions he has. The air is very warm now, at 21-24C and the wind is negligible. Stroke count is 42.

At around 16:20, the wash from a passing motorboat hits and Shezza is riding the waves. There is much more boat traffic around as we near the finish.

At 16:30, Shez has a final feed, a little early, as Cliff and Sam decide a booster is a good idea so he can head off and bring it home. Sam has again added a scoop of Maxim for this final leg. Shez accepts the early feed, says, “Okay”, has a quick pee and heads off. The passengers on the Wetwheels boat , (Disability Access organisation), applaud Mark as they go by.

Shezza flies past Noirmont and heads towards the west side of the wall at Elizabeth Castle. His stroke rate increases again and he looks strong and determined.

Meanwhile, the club boat with the relay swim seems to have overshot the wall and has to head back around to pick up their swimmers.

At 17:10 the crew head to the bow with stopwatch and camera. There is lots of vocal encouragement. Cliff films the finish with commentary.

Shezza hits the wall at 17:18, after 10 hours, 21 minutes and 19 seconds.

“’Avin it!” (Shez decides not to take Matt up on the offer to do it again on Thursday.)