Four Swimmers Conquer Sāmoa's Apolima Strait After Four Years

Four Swimmers Conquer Sāmoa’s Apolima Strait After Four Years

On August 7th, 2023, four swimmers – Ruth Mariñosa, Samuel Muir-James, Jessica Campbell, and Melissa Donaldson successfully crossed the Apolima Strait in Sāmoa, marking the first time in four years that this challenging swim has been completed.

The Apolima Strait, a 22.3 km stretch of water, lies between the islands of Upolu and Savai’i. This wasn’t the first attempt for Mariñosa and Muir-James. They had previously tried to cross the strait in May but had to abandon their effort due to heavy seas.

A Triumph for Sam Muir-James

Local open water swimmer, Sam Muir-James, has achieved what he describes as his most ambitious challenge yet. In his 30s and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, Sam completed the swim in an impressive seven hours and 20 minutes. Setting off from Upolo at 6.30 am, he reached Savai’i faster than expected. His mother, Jayne Muir-James, expressed her astonishment at his time, especially considering his training was limited to a 25m pool during colder months. This was Sam’s second attempt at the Apolima, with his first try in May being thwarted by a severe storm. During his time in Samoa, Sam and his father, Wally, also took the opportunity to visit Itu O Tane college in Savai’i, gifting students with school journals from Buller High School. He previously swum the Cook Strait and Lake Taupō in Aotearoa, NZ. His eyes are now set on the Foveaux Strait to complete the NZ Triple Crown.

Melissa Donaldson’s Journey

Melissa Donaldson’s story is accomplishing a dream to swim long distances. Starting her swimming journey at 49, she progressively took on longer distances. However, with increasing distances came challenges, particularly pain in her left shoulder. This led her to the SwimMastery technique, which transformed her approach to swimming. Despite being advised by marathon swimmers to train for 9-12 months for such a feat, Donaldson, with the guidance of her coach, prepared for the Apolima Strait swim in just 9 weeks. On August 7th, she swam over 24km in 8 hours and 42 minutes, describing the experience as an “adventure like no other.” She attributes her success to her team, the SwimMastery technique, and her coach, Tracey Baumann.

Ruth Mariñosa and Jessica Campbell

Ruth Mariñosa, hailing from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand, was the first to touch the finish line at Sālelologa, Savai’i.

Jessica Campell is the first UK national to swim Apolima Strait and said:

“After a stressful few days in Samoa leading into the swim, Apolima Strait itself was an awesome body of water to swim in. It was so incredibly blue that I almost forgot about the seemingly hundreds of jellyfish stings that I received and I loved swimming with turtles, and over stunning coral reefs. The swim was a huge achievement for me, having defended my PhD (in Marine Biology) and handed in the final copy of my PhD thesis, less than one month before the swim. I found juggling the PhD, a new job, and swim-training in the closest public pool (almost an hour’s drive from home), was a challenge over the NZ winter. To feel fantastic throughout the swim and finish feeling as good as I did (despite chaos in Samoa) was a real shock. I’m really tiny (40kg tiny), so having a warm swim where hypothermia wouldn’t be an issue was wonderful, and was very different from swimming in NZ or the UK where I’m constantly fighting to stay warm! I’ve been vegan for about 15 years and (while yes, I’m tiny – unrelated), I enjoy showing that you can still have loads of energy without consuming animal products.”

Jessica Campell

A Day to Remember

“On the day of the swim, weather conditions got better as the swim progressed. Rolling seas on the entrance to Sālelologa harbour made the final approach interesting for supporting vessels that included the Sāmoa Maritime Police Nāfanua rescue boat with Police divers onboard.”

Mariñosa, Muir-James, Campbell and Donaldson are the 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th swimmers to swim Upolu to Savai’i.

The next Apolima Strait is Wednesday 1st May 2024. Entries are now open.