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North Channel Challenge – Team MAD

North Channel Crossing – Donaghadee to Port Patrick – Monday 3rd July 2017

Key Facts

  • First mother daughter relay team to swim the North Channel
  • First duo relay team to swim the North Channel
  • First successful North Channel crossing of 2017
  • Raised over £10,400 for Maggie’s Centre, Glasgow. There is still time to donate just click on this link. 



We decided to swim the North Channel as we were both Scottish and to be honest it felt like more of a challenge than the English Channel given the cold, jellyfish and tidal currents! We raised money for Maggie’s Centre which provides cancer support to people in and around the Glasgow area and because my sister, Roslyn passed away from cancer.


Our swim

Please read on for a description of our successful North Channel crossing on Monday 3rd July 2017.


Sunday 2nd July 2017


Having received a last-minute call from Quinton Nelson, the pilot, at 8 pm on Sunday 2nd July, we were told our swim would be taking place the following morning. Luckily following the Boy Scouts’ motto of “Always be prepared” we got ready in an hour, having made enough sandwiches to feed us and the wildlife of the North Channel!


Monday 3rd July 2017


05 30

We met Quinton, the official observer from the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (David) and the trainee observer (Alan) who was in charge of the boat ladder at the harbour We were also expecting a chef who unfortunately didn’t turn up as he slept in.


Thorntonhall Therapies Figure 2 - North channel Team


Team MAD and supporters at Donaghadee Harbour (Left to right, Cheke, Rachel, Trisha, Adam Walker)


Quinton piloted the boat 15 minutes south of Donaghadee so Rachel could jump in and swim to stand on the rocks on Northern Ireland. David the observer then blew the whistle and it was the start of the swim. Port Patrick here we come!


First 2 hours – Rachel: 


Despite my assertion that the water was warm, I did start to shiver 30 minutes in. It was also becoming increasingly lumpy so I was told to swim on the other side of the boat to get some protection from the wind. I missed seeing the hour mark from Adam so I was incredibly grateful to see the white board with 30 minutes to go. The sun was beginning to emerge towards the end and I consoled myself with the fact that this would be warming the water.

Watch Rachels Video – The first two Hours 


Second 2 hours – Trisha:


At the end of Rachel’s 2 hour slot, I jumped in shouting “Go Rachel” and I was off! My first hour was amazing. It was so windy and wavy and I loved it. I felt like I was flying as the current was behind me and the sun was fully out.

Watch Trisha’s Video – Whale Encounters


Thorntonhall Therapies Figure 3 - Trisha Harvey Swim Stroke


Ocean Walker Swim Stroke in action (Trisha)


Third 2 hours – 


I jumped in knowing that the water temperature was a balmy 15 degrees Celsius so this really helped me swim for the second 2 hour slot.

Watch Rachels Video – The Third Session


Fourth 2 hours – 


The sun was out and the Ocean Walker stroke felt good. However, my legs started to shake towards the end and I was really feeling the cold. After this swim, I spoke to Adam to get some advice on how to deal with the cold and went for a sleep wrapped in up in 4 layers, hat and gloves cradling a bottle of hot Ribena to recover on deck.

Watch Trisha’s Video – The Fourth Session


Fifth 2 hours – Rachel:


The third slot was one of the harder slots for me as my legs started to seize up and it was difficult to kick. The dark shape of Port Patrick on the horizon seemed to be quite far away and I did begin to question whether we would be able to make it or not which is not the right attitude to have. Of all the sports I have done, open water swimming is the sport where your mental strength is key. I have never been so glad to see a ladder being lowered into the water signalling it was time for me to get out. Thank you, Alan, our best Ladder Man!


Sixth 2 hours – Trisha: 


I was refreshed from my nap but slightly disconcerted by being woken up by Adam cheerfully introducing himself as the Grim Reaper! However, his advice on combatting the cold was invaluable. He advised me to visualise being somewhere hot when I was swimming. During this swim, I imagined I was in my therapy room on the hot plinth with a roaring log fire. With this image in my mind, I had a great swim and halfway through my positive thoughts attracted a pilot whale, dolphins and a seal to check out my swimming stroke and the boat.Not that anybody on the boat was competitive but Alan did ask that he should be recognised for seeing the pilot whale first. Quinton confirmed that it was indeed a pilot whale and that all we needed now was for David Attenborough to turn up.

Watch Trisha’s Video – Six Hours In


Seventh 2 hours – Rachel:


After my third swim, I followed Mum’s example and had a sleep in the sunshine which really refreshed me. I knew from speaking to Adam, that there needed to be big push as the tide turned against us at 20 00 which would make it more difficult to reach Port Patrick. The first hour of “going for it” worked well but in the second hour, I slowed and kept slipping behind the boat which was demoralising. Ladder Man’s ladder couldn’t come quick enough!


horntonhall Therapies Figure 4 - Rachel Hughes Swim Stroke

Ocean Walker Swim Stroke in action (Rachel)


Eighth 2 hours – Trisha:


Adam had told me that I had to swim as fast I could to avoid the current pushing us sideways up the coast and missing Port Patrick. I gave it everything I had and reached 1 mile to go however by then my progress began to slow and while I was inching forward it was baby steps and my Ocean Walker stroke went to pot. Clearly it was lost in the current. I have never had to dig so deep!

The water also changed from being clear to congested with jellyfish. I started to play the game of “Dodge the Jellyfish” but didn’t get a top score as I got stung on my left arm. In the last hour, I also began to feel the effects of both the drop in the air and water temperature as the night drew in.

The ladder being lowered into the water was a sight for sore eyes and I was so relieved to get out and elated to see how close we were to the cliffs of Port Patrick. During my swim, I hadn’t been able to see the cliffs due to my goggles misting up and fading light. While I sensed we were close I couldn’t see how close we were.


Touching the Rocks – Rachel:


The tension on the boat had increased over the past hour as we inched towards Port Patrick. Poor Mum (as well as the rest of the boat!) was really suffering hence the reason for the lack of live videos at this point.

From the boat, the cliffs were so close that I could see the waves breaking and I knew it was one last effort. Donning the glow sticks so I could be seen in the water, I jumped in and headed for the cliffs. We were so close and there was no question we were not going to finish.

I sprinted for the rocks. I was repeating “We have reached Port Patrick” in my mind as I swam. I finally touched the rocks, lifted my arms up and heard the whistle blow and knew we had done it.

What an amazing effort by Team MAD!

Watch Rachel’s Video – Touching the Rocks :


A huge thank you goes to the following people


Adam Walker, our coach. Without him we would not have got across. He was an exceptionally good-humoured pillar of support, encouraging us with each swim, helping us get changed and get warm and eventually learning how Trisha liked her hot Ribena! We are so grateful for his support as well as finding time to film videos and keeping everyone updated on our progress on Facebook. This helped us exceed our £10,000 fundraising target so thank you so much Adam!


Quinton  A big thank you for his expert piloting skills, knowledge of local marine life and dry sense of humour. When we went to thank him after finishing, telling him that Team MAD were one hit wonders and this was our only North Channel crossing, he replied that this was the best news he had heard all day.


Cheke was tracking the swim and was full of praise for us both which helped keep us going. Unfortunately, he was laid low with sea sickness for the first half of the swim. He did rally in the last half of the swim to provide motivation and take some great photographs.


Alan also known to us as “Ladder Man” as he was in charge of lowering the ladder and assisting us out the water. Let’s face it the sight of this ladder being lowered into the water did become the highlight of our 2 hour swim slots.


David, the Irish Long Distance Swimming Association (ILDSA) official observer who made sure we adhered to the rules and kept us on the straight and narrow. We were his first successful North Channel crossing as an observer.


Paul, who became a swimming widow, thank you for all your support and encouragement in the 13 weeks leading up to the swim. I am so sorry you we not able to be with us in person but I know you were in spirit.


Everyone who supported us by donating to our Just Giving Page and sending their good wishes on the day and afterwards.



Team MAD with Quinton


  • Posted by Trisha Harvey
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Well done to you both loved the story pictures and videos were amazing what a amazing challenge and also bonding mother and daughter that will last a life time ur mum family and friends must be so proud I know I am well done x
Well done girls, what an effort and what a great achievement!

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