MARC to host talk with English Channel swimmer

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Wed., May. 25, 2011
Marcella MacDonald points to the English Channel map that plots the course of her first successful Channel crossing in 2001. Photo by Martha Marteney.
Marcella MacDonald points to the English Channel map that plots the course of her first successful Channel crossing in 2001. Photo by Martha Marteney.

"Dream, Prepare, Succeed” are the words listed at the bottom of the poster for an upcoming talk by Marcella MacDonald, the first American woman to successfully complete a double crossing of the English Channel and the record holder for the most crossings by an American woman. Proceeds from MacDonald’s talk will benefit the MARC Building Fund.

“Once I did the Channel, my confidence level went up,” said MacDonald. She realized she could do anything she put her mind to.  Still, there are times when MacDonald cannot believe her accomplishments. The Manchester, Conn., native’s first successful Channel crossing was in 1994, swimming for 10 hours and 33 minutes. In 2001, she successfully completed her first double crossing, swimming from Dover, England, to the coast of France and back again - a roundtrip of just over 43 miles - in 21 hours and 19 minutes. This year, she is hoping to be the first swimmer of the season in June and the last swimmer in October. 

“I’ve always felt good in the water,” said MacDonald. She started long-distance swimming with the Manchester Recreation Department and coach Mel Siebold. MacDonald is looking forward to the lifeguard reunion this summer on July 16, beginning at 4 p.m., at Globe Hollow.

MacDonald noted that she has finally become less competitive in her swimming. “I’m a different swimmer now,” she explained. By becoming a more efficient swimmer, she is able to keep her speed up, even though she no longer has the mindset of racing. She trains in open water as much as weather allows. MacDonald posts her training schedule and her thoughts on swimming on her website,

Nonetheless, MacDonald said, “I know the first eight hours [of the Channel crossing] is going to be boring.” The closest thing she can equate it to is walking for the same length of time without stopping.  “When was the last time you did anything for 10 hours?” asked MacDonald. “And I know some day, I may not want to do it anymore.” It seems doubtful, though, that MacDonald will stop before she reaches her ultimate goal of swimming the most crossings for an American. That record is currently held by Peter Jurzynski, also from Connecticut, who has 14 crossings. 

MacDonald will speak on Wednesday, June 8, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at the SBM Charitable Foundation Auditorium at Manchester Community College. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $20 for adults, and may be purchased at the website or by calling 860-646-5718. All proceeds benefit the MARC Building Fund.  The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m., with a reception, followed by a showing of the documentary film “The Channel,” which runs about 45 minutes. The evening will conclude with a Q&A session with MacDonald.

According to Kevin Zingler, director of marketing, MARC is in the process of purchasing the buildings located at 151 and 161 Sheldon Road. In 2008, MARC purchased approximately 4 acres at 87 Sheldon Road, with the intent of building a new structure. However, when the buildings just on the other side of the main post office became available, Zingler said the decision was made that it would be more economical, as well as quicker, to buy the existing buildings than to build new. “It’s a way that we could jump start,” he said.  MARC is expecting to occupy the new campus as early as September 2011.

The Sheldon Road location was considered ideal for MARC, because it is centrally located in Manchester, near the highway and on a bus line.  Zingler indicated that MARC will hold onto the land at 87 Sheldon Road, which is being used as collateral for the loan on the other property.

“We’re really doing a big push right now to get those extra things in the renovations,” said Zingler. MARC is hoping for sponsorships from individuals, corporations or civil organizations to fund special purchases, such as touch-less sinks, or for entire rooms. Zingler explained that certain features are currently not in the Phase I budget, but that MARC is always looking to be able to supply adaptive technology to improve their service levels. 

With the new buildings, MARC will have a total of 30,000 square feet of space available, compared to the current 15,000 square feet. “This will really position us well for the future for providing services to people with disabilities and their families,” said Zingler. For more information about MARC, the new buildings or to purchase tickets for the MacDonald event, visit the website

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