RLB’s Colleen Engel-Mallon to swim one of the world’s toughest stretches of water to combat plastic pollution

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  • RLB’s Colleen Engel-Mallon to swim one of the world’s toughest stretches of water to combat plastic pollution
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Carly Lupton


Carly Lupton


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Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) Sydney Associate Colleen Engel-Mallon is preparing to swim New Zealand’s Cook Strait, one of the most challenging stretches of water in the world in February 2020.

Separating the North and South Islands of New Zealand, the Cook Strait extends northwest to southeast from the Tasman Sea to the South Pacific Ocean. The swim is around 26 kilometres and can take between seven and twelve hours to complete.

Ms Engel-Mallon said, ‘For marathon swimmers, the Cook Strait is known as a real “Everest challenge”. It is a real test on a personal, physical and psychological level.’

Treacherous currents and fierce storms present serious hazards

She added, ‘Depending on these factors, I could be swimming anytime from 14th – 21st February, with the direction of the swim also subject to tides (North to South Island or South to North Island).’

RLB will be sponsoring Colleen in her efforts and supporting her on her swimming journey during 2020, which she aims to use as a catalyst for encouraging environmental action for our oceans.

Stephen Mee, RLB Global Board member commented, ‘We are proud to sponsor and support Colleen in her passion for open water swimming and in her efforts to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans.’

‘Colleen has been with RLB for seven years and has made a wonderful contribution to our Engineering Services division, working on significant projects such as the Sydney Opera House, the New South Wales Art Gallery extension – Sydney Modern, the Sydney Fish Markets redevelopment, WestConnex and Sydney Metro,’ he said.

An award-winning effort, but she’s not finished yet

Her stellar efforts at RLB culminated in being awarded the RLB Excellence in Innovation and Business Performance Award in 2019.

Whilst the Cook Strait swim is an epic challenge in itself, Colleen’s ultimate goal for 2020 is to be the first person to conquer a two-way solo crossing (double-crossing) of the North Channel. If successfully completed, the 70km+ swim will be a world record!

The North Channel is a notoriously difficult body of water between Ireland and Scotland and is thought to be the toughest channel swim in the world, with athletes battling extreme elements to achieve the the 35km crossing. Less than 100 people in the world have ever successfully crossed it solo.

Colleen has already completed the North Channel solo crossing in 2014, holding the 3rd fastest overall time – so she knows what’s in store!

Reducing plastic pollution in our oceans

Colleen is embarking on these swims to raise funds for the Sea Shepherd’s Marine Debris Campaign.

‘As an open water swimmer, I feel that I need to take more responsibility for the state of our oceans. I get so much enjoyment from the sea and the incredible wildlife that it sustains. Sadly, we live in a world where more than a third of the world’s sea turtles are said to have plastic waste in their stomachs,’ she said.

Colleen concluded, ‘So while this journey is about swimming adventures, I’m also asking fellow ocean lovers, in our industry and beyond, to support efforts (either by donating or reducing personal/ business plastic use) to help stem the tide of plastic pollution in our oceans.’