Andy Donaldson Completes Oceans Seven in Record Time

Andy Donaldson has become the 24th person to complete the Oceans Seven challenge, and he has done it in record time. The Oceans Seven consists of seven of the most dangerous channel swims in the world.

On July 27, the Scottish marathon swimmer finished his final swim, Japan’s Tsugaru Strait, and became the first person to complete all seven in just one year. He also broke the record for the fastest cumulative time. Hungarian swimmer Attila Manyoki held the previous record.

Manyoki was one of the first to congratulate Donaldson after his final swim.

“I am proud to be the second fastest Oceans Seven swimmer behind Andy,” he told The Daily News Of Open Water Swimming. “Congratulations.”

The Seven Summits of swimming

Steven Munatones, the founder of the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA), devised the Oceans Seven in 2008. In some ways, it’s the swimming equivalent of the Seven Summits.

Donaldson was a competitive pool swimmer, specializing in the 200m freestyle. He held a number of national titles in the UK. In 2013, he moved to Australia and switched to open-water swimming. Initially, he dabbled in the sport, but when the pandemic hit in 2020, he threw himself into it.

After setting a new male British record in the English Channel. Photo: Instagram/@andy.swimmer


In 2021, he took part in the Rottnest Channel Swim, in Western Australia.

“Everyone thought I was just a has-been swimmer and no threat at all, but I loved that,” he told OceanSwims. “It drove me harder…I ended up winning and coming in seven minutes ahead of the next swimmer…Ultimately this was the catalyst for getting into ultra-marathon swimming and the start of the Oceans Seven Challenge.”

Began with the English Channel

Donaldson started the Oceans Seven in August 2022 with the English Channel. He swam the 33km in exactly eight hours. It was the fastest crossing in 10 years and broke the record for fastest British male. He then made his way around the remaining six swims:

  • English Channel (England-France, 33km): 8 hours 0 minutes (British Record)
  • North Channel (Ireland-Scotland, 34.5km): 9 hours 13 minutes (British Record)
  • Cook Strait (New Zealand, 22km): 4 hours 33 minutes (World Record)
  • Molokai Channel (Hawaii, 43km): 15 hours 52 minutes
  • Strait of Gibraltar (Spain-Morocco, 14.5km): 2 hours 56 minutes (British Record)
  • Catalina Channel (USA, 32km): 9 hours 22 minutes (British Record)
  • Tsugaru Strait (Japan, 19.5km): 13 hours 4 minutes

His final swim, the Tsugaru Strait in Japan, was the hardest. In the swimming world, a lot of controversy currently surrounds this crossing. Before he set off, no one had completed the swim successfully this year.

Swimming the Straight of Gibraltar. Photo: Andy Donaldson/Facebook


Controversial swim

The guide company that oversees the swim has recently implemented a number of restrictions and rules that many are not happy with. They will not allow a night swim, there are restrictions on swimming times, and on the lines you can swim. They also hold the right to pull any swimmer from the water if they feel it is necessary.

Many experienced open-water swimmers have questioned how they run the crossings. There have been so many complaints that WOWSA is now involved,

“We’re deeply distressed about the Tsugaru situation and are actively investigating,” it said in a recent statement.

Once Donaldson and his team made it into the water, the real problems began. They had to move the starting point of the swim south because of the rough water. The conditions were incredibly harsh. Many times, he and his team feared he wouldn’t finish because of the immense currents. In the first four hours, he covered under 10km. His usual swimming pace was about 5km an hour.

Andy Donaldson and his team after the Catalina Channel crossing. Photo: @andy.swimmer/Instagram


Exhausted, in the hospital

But Donaldson persisted, despite the swells and currents. Then with only 4-5km to go, a current drew him away from his finish point. It was so strong that it took him over two hours to finish the swim.

In terms of time, this was the second-longest swim of his challenge, although it was one of the shortest in distance. Since then, he has been recovering in the hospital. The swim so drained him that he couldn’t keep down any food or liquid afterward.

Following his final swim, Donaldson said “I take my hat off to Attila. This last swim was the toughest. I didn’t think I was going to finish, let alone break his [cumulative] time.”

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.