Scottish Swimmer Andy Donaldson Sets New Cook Strait Record

Scottish Swimmer Andy Donaldson Sets New Cook Strait Record

In an impressive feat of athleticism, Andy Donaldson has smashed the previous record for the fastest swim across the Cook Strait. Donaldson began the swim just before midnight on the South Island, and after 4 hours, 33 minutes, and 50 seconds, he touched the North Island shore. By completing the crossing in this time, Donaldson has surpassed the previous record holder, Casey Glover, whose time of 4:37 had stood since 2008. The swim was monitored and sanctioned by the New Zealand Open Water Swimming Association (NZOWSA), in partnership with Infinity Channel Swimming and Katabatic Charters.

Courtesy of Infinity Channel Swimming

Andrew Donaldson
Cook Strait S-N

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Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark left before you. -George Whitefield

As Andrew awaited his Cook Strait Swim crossing date he immersed himself in the local swimming community based in Wellington, establishing new friendships and meeting other fellow channel swimmers including Prabhat Koli, Gráinne Moss, Barbara Hernandez and Natalie Pohl. Arriving in Picton by the scenic route having the luxury of a private jet and an aeriel view of the swim course Andrew took the reins from Callum Eade fresh from his 6:41 Cook Strait clip.

Having found his passion for open water marathon swimming Andrew comes to this extreme sport with swim speed, technique, performance mindset and mental fortitude; all finely tuned. He did not falter one stroke in his journey across the Cook Strait.

Marchs’ well referenced Storm Moon lit up the night sky as the green starboard and green adventure lights illuminated Andrew like a ‘Hulk’ of the sea. Superpowers engaged, Andrew jumped in and swam in shore to touch land at Perano Head. At the whistle off he started pacing at 6.2 km/h 60 SPM 1:10/100 pace, taking every advantage of the ebbing Spring tide.

Andrews’ swim plan had attention to detail in every aspect from Swim Strategy and Performance to Nutrition and Communication. The swim team roles were well rehearsed ensuring efficiency with timely updates and speedily and accurately delivered feeds.

Andrews’ swim strategy had four speed levels. Familiar with these on his North Channel crossing [19.09.2022 09:13:57] and knowing his swim style and ability, a measured swim plan was created.

With local knowledge from resident expert Joe Heberley, regular analysis of tidal flows and swimmers course position against swim pace were carefully calculated. With skilful pilotage Andrews four levels of performance were used to his advantage. Pacing at ‘A2 FIRM 60 – 62 SPM’ Andrew comfortably ticked off the first half of the crossing adjusting well to the 12.5C water temperatures, night swimming (no mean feat), calming sea state and minimal Southerly swell. The minutes between feeds flew by – feeding every 15 minutes with an average feed time of 3 seconds typical of race circuit open water long distance swimmers. Andrews communication had a simple Velocity D\S\T focus which he could quickly reference – top Distance, bottom left Speed, bottom right Time.

Approaching a more technically challenging and current influenced section Andrew was asked to increase to ‘A3 PRESS SR 62 to 64’ holding a 1:10/100 pace for 30 minutes as the team monitored closely his distance travelled. With advances made and more challenging currents presenting Andrew was asked for his ‘A4 MAX’ sustaining a stroke rate of 64 with average race pace of 1:05/100. Ability to maintain this pace is a physical challenge. MAX output is more difficult to sustain given its drain on the body’s reserves. His race plan said TEMPO and WILLPOWER wins, and rightly so. Illuminated by the Storm Moon and the cloudless and starry night sky Andrew could see the North Island approach.

With time passing and the course record standing at of 4:37:00 [Casey Glover 2008] up for grabs Andrew swam to landfall as the crew watched in awe at his Stormforce pace. The whistle blew and the KATABATIC bell tolled – 4:33:50. Andrew would not yet know this result. With cuts and grazes to his knees acquired from making hi sway to the rocky shoreline and exhausted from the intensity of his efforts Andrew swam back to re-board, surprised at his finish time, satisfied that he given his all. His reaction was priceless as he learned that he had taken the course record S-N and also the overall fastest record for the Cook Strait. Humble and thankful Andrew took time to acknowledge and thank the team support and also to promote his charity Black Dog Institute.

Back in Picton, Andrew was interviewed by Andy Brew STUFF.NZ Read the publication here and signed the ‘Wall of Fame’ in SEUMUS’s. As the Northern hemisphere congratulated in real-time the Southern hemisphere woke up to news that overnight something and somewhat amazing happened.

Support and compliments for Andrew and his team have been flowing in. THANK YOU

As Andrew recovers, he continues his journey. Next is #4 of his O7 ‘Molokai’ as he maintains his target date of July 2024 to achieve all Oceans Seven in one calendar year – fastest accumulated swim time and fastest by calendar months.

Swim start 23:47hrs NZDT
Tuesday 6.3.2023
Swim time 4:33:50(7.3.2023)

Cook Strait Course record South to North
Cook Strait Speed Record
Cook Strait Speed Record Male
NZOWSA Ratification*

Skipper: Grant Orchard
Crew: Jackson Kibbelwhite Jacqueline McClelland
Swim support: Sarah Harrow
Official Observer: NZOWSA Jackson Arlidge