22 Mar 2009

Rotorua woman claims Cook Strait record

10:57 am on 22 March 2009

A Rotorua woman has swum Cook Strait in nine hours 23 minutes, becoming the oldest person to do so.

Pam Dickson, 55, completed the swim on Friday on her first attempt, despite suffering hypothermia on the last leg and swimming in a circle for the final 800 metres because she was so cold and disoriented.

She says the water temperature was 18 degrees when she began the swim, but it then dropped to 16 degrees in the final 4km.

Her guide, veteran Strait swimmer Philip Rush, says it is illegal to wear wetsuits in such swims, including in the English Channel.

He says Ms Dickson's crossing was a "great effort" in gusty winds of up to 30 knots, which made conditions difficult for both the swimmer and her support crew.

She swam the distance of 26km from north to south.

Ms Dickson, a massage therapist and grandmother of nine, says she's jumping with joy at her feat, but will probably not rest for too long.

She has competed in many Ironman races and marathons and is considering doing the Rotorua marathon in May.