Harris resident Paul Finnegan is getting set to swim from Skye to Harris as part of The Little Minch Swim attempt before taking on the Big Minch, swimming from Lewis to mainland Scotland.
This is despite only trying out open water swimming for the first time this year.
Paul – who has previously taken part in several long-distance running events – and open water swimmer Colin S Macleod, from Stornoway, will set off from Waternish Point on Skye .
They aim to solo swim the 15 mile Little Minch channel to land at Rodel in Harris to raise funds for the Western Isles Community Care Forum and Cancer Research UK.
The attempt is due to take place this week.
“I’d never done open water swimming before so it has certainly been different,” said Paul who has lived in the Western Isles for 18 years, previously in Keose on Lewis and the Uists before moving to Scalpay where he works with Harris Voluntary Services.
“I’d often looked across the Little Minch and wondered if I could swim across. I want to see if I can physically do it,” he continued.
“My training is going fine and the only thing really bothering me is the cold. I’ve got a good thick wetsuit, rash vest and thermals and I’ve just got some new thermal wetsuit socks to try out, so hopefully that will all help.”
Paul hopes to take the title of the oldest man to complete the Little Minch crossing when successful next month; while swimmer Colin is aiming to beat the time of part-time swimming instructor Eilidh Macdonald, from England, who became the first woman to swim the route in 2010, taking nine hours and 33 minutes to complete the feat.
Paul and Colin will be supported on their Little Minch attempt by local kayakers and vessels from Sea Lewis and Kilda Cruises.
And also joining the pair in the water to offer buddy-support are Lewis swimmers Stuart Baird and Norma Macleod, who plan to relay across the 15mile channel in 45minute bursts to keep Paul and Colin on their toes.
A daunting challenge – but the Little Minch Swim could be considered ‘warm-up’ for the swimming pairs’ second swim challenge of 2018, as Paul and Colin, joined by Ullapool open water swimmer Norman Todd, will attempt solo swims of the Big Minch in July.
Leaving from Orinsay in Lewis to land at Rubha Reidh, Gairloch, on mainland Scotland, the Swim challenge covers 24 miles – longer than a swim of the English Channel – and the trio are making the attempt to raise funds for and highlight the work of the Dolphin Snorkelers project.
“The Little Minch Swim will be good training for me for the Big Minch attempt,” said Paul.
“I had no sea swimming experience until I started training for the challenges, but I can see what the attraction is – I recently had to jump in the swimming pool for a few sessions and it was the weirdest feeling.
“I run a lot and often think why run on a treadmill when you can run outside, and open water swimming is a bit like that. There’s such a freedom and I’m really enjoying being in the sea.”
You can find out more about the Minch Swim 2018 challenges, including challenge charities and how to donate, and just what it takes to swim the Minch seas through the team’s blog, on the website www.theminchswims.co.uk and via ‘The Minch Swims’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/345111889268982/