All three swimmers were experienced and had trained hard. Justin was a competitive sprint swimmer until he was 18 and, something of a serial adventurer, has previously completed a swim in the Hudson River through New York to highlight environmental issues. Chad trained in Connecticut, in the Hudson, and around City Island in the Bronx. Johnnie began swimming in the sea in California for general fitness, losing 60 pounds in training.
Jellyfish were a minor hazard in the water – Johnnie took several stings including one across the face – though medic Victor reassured us that an immune-response was unlikely from isolated stings, as long as they weren’t inside the mouth. A bigger risk was hyperthermia, which was why hot coffee for the swimmers formed part of the thoroughly-researched on-board provisions, and also why once an hour Victor engaged each of the swimmers in conversation from the open-sided RIB, so as to check for slurred speech.
Two and a half hours later, the lighthouse at the north-eastern tip of Islay was reached, though the strong eddy prevented an actual approach to the shore. Safely back in the boat powering back towards Port Askaig, after a brief stop on the pier at Bunnahabhain to collect some donated single malt, Chad reflected on what the swimming experience has given him. “You look out as far as you can see, to the horizon – that’s maybe 15 miles – and I know, I could swim that if I had to.”
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Bottles of the “pillaged” quarter cask of whisky, collected from some of the island’s distilleries en route, including Bruichladdich, will be auctioned for charity. Visit the Great Islay Swim website for more details.
Keep up with these outstanding young men via twitter @johnniethescot @BaronAmbrosia @spacecapital.