The Big Minch Swim ended in drama in the early hours of this morning (Monday July 9th), with emergency services scrambled to find Stornoway swimmer Colin Macleod, declared missing at sea less than a mile from the shore.

Stornoway Coastguard received a call at 11.45pm from the skipper of the support vessel Harvest Moon, saying that Ullapool swimmer Norman Todd had been pulled from the sea exhausted and Colin had gone on alone, but the support kayaker had lost sight of him and he could not be seen from any of the support vessels.

Stornoway Coastguard scrambled Stornoway rescue helicopter R948 and Stornoway RNLI lifeboat, at the same time issuing a general call for assistance.  

The CalMac ferry MV Loch Seaforth diverted from her crossing to the scene and launched their fast rescue boat. The helicopter spotted Colin less than two miles from shore and he was taken on board the rescue boat and on to the ferry, from where he was airlifted to Stornoway airport and taken onwards by ambulance to Western Isles Hospital.

Colin’s family heard of the unfolding drama by ringing the Coastguard, and had a period of intense anxiety before news came through that he was safe and well.

His mother, Catherine Macleod, said that he had been swimming strongly towards the lighthouse at Rubha Reidh, the endpoint of his swim, and was taken by surprise when he heard the approaching helicopter.

She said: “The kayaker turned back to the boat for food and then it appears they could not find him. He was swimming towards the lighthouse and only had two miles to go when the helicopter was above him.

"He thought “hello!” and carried on swimming, but when they came back he thought they might be looking for him and sent up his signal. They spotted him at once. He’s fine now and enjoyed being winched up from the ferry.”

Colin had been in the sea for over 20 hours, had covered more than 25 miles of open sea and was within sight of his goal when the swim ended.

His team-mate Colleen Blair completed the swim in just over 18 hours after battling tides in the last mile.