Mermaids & Ex-Men Complete Cold North Channel Swim

Two of the Henley Mermaids, Laura Reineke and Joan Fennelly along with friends from Exmouth, Max Norman and Gary Robb (aka the Ex-Men) completed the North Channel swim yesterday from Donaghadee in Northern Ireland to Port Patrick in Scotland in relay, in an amazing time of time of 14 hours 46 minutes.
The team of swimmers started out at 5.36am yesterday morning with the sea calm. Laura started the swim and Max completed the swim at around 8.30pm last night.
The distance is 21.6 miles, while a similar distance to the English Channel that Mermaids swam in July 2020, but the water is a lot colder water (11-12◦C) across a waterway that’s known for Lions Mane Jellyfish! The North Channel swim is considered the toughest of the Seven Ocean Sea Swims. The seven ocean swims include the English Channel and the Cook Strait between the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
The swim was sponsored by Henley Information Systems Ltd, David Roger Sharp, Hanson Regan, THP Solicitors and Philip Booth Esq with the team raising money and awareness for Surfers Against Sewage which is a national marine conservation and campaigning charity that inspires, unites and empowers communities to take action to protect oceans, beaches, waves and wildlife.  They have raised about £2,500 so far.
The team celebrated by cracking opening a bottle of champagne which they drank out of soup bowls! Laura said, “It was an amazing day and an epic swim. Myself, Gary and Max swam 4 times, and Joanie 3.  Each swim was very different. 3/4 of the way through you swim over the Beaufort Dyke which is very deep and the temperature drops further, and the current is strong so my 3rd swim was a really hard slog.  I had to dig deep and have a word with myself! These swims, although you have to be fit are far more about resilience, adaptability and strength of mind, there are many times you have to alter your own thinking/thoughts in order to continue/push through. Although it looked idyllic believe me it was anything but! Warming up was the toughest thing, only followed by having to get back in. The cold temperatures are difficult for me, I tire more quickly and expend much more energy warming up. Joanie is amazing in the cold, it just doesn’t affect her. We saw a good number of jellyfish and I was stung by a lions mane, luckily only once because the more stings you get, the bigger the reaction. The boat carries an Epi-pen and defibrillator just for this reason. We had a fantastic day, the boys were a great addition in place of our best friends and fellow mermaids, Jo, Susan & Fiona and we made a great team ending with the elation of a successful challenge. Thank you to all our supporters and sponsors. It makes a huge difference to our motivation having them egging us on! Now we just have to do the Bristol Channel and finish our Thames source to Henley this year!”
Joan added, “As an Irish woman, I am especially delighted to have had the opportunity to be on the team to swim from Northern Ireland to Scotland.  It was a very difficult and cold swim, with very strong currents, but our team jelled exceptionally well, despite having only been formed only 6 weeks ago!   We are delighted to be one of only forty four relay teams to ever make it across the North Channel.”
In July the full complement of Mermaids (Laura, Joan, Jo Robb, Susan Barry and Fiona Print) are re-attempting the Bristol Channel, having had their first attempt last summer aborted after swimming 61km, and only 4km from finishing. The Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal range in the world.  Throughout the summer they are also all swimming the length of the Thames in sections to highlight the issue of pollution in our rivers.
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