This Championship was taken over by the BLDSA in 1974 when Jack Brown, the long serving Hon. Secretary of the Morecambe Cross Bay Swimming Association retired. The history of this swim forms part of the history of long distance swimming, so no apology is made for including its pre-BLDSA history from the BLDSA’s first Handbook, published in 1969, written by Jack Brown.
The course was 9-11 miles from the beach east of Grange Over Sands Baths to West End Beach, Morecambe. Distance and course were variable owing to fluctuations of sandbanks and channels. There is strong but irregular tidal assistance and the Rivers Leven, Kent and Keer which flow into the upper reaches of the Bay create cross-currents of cold water. The swim was held during a week-end when there is spring tides, starting a little before high water.
To finish competitors must normally walk ashore on West End Beach between Stone Jetty and the Beacon. When, owing to tidal conditions, the Chief Pilot deems this to be impossible, competitors may finish by crossing the jetty-Beacon line without walking ashore. Any competitor who is too far from the shore to pass between the Jetty and the Beacon, but who is in a position to swim ashore at Heysham, may at the Committee’s discretion, may be awarded a Cross-Bay Certificate.”
“History” – The first known Grange to Morecambe attempt was made by a group of young Morecambe swimmers in early summer of 1907. They failed, but the attempt confirmed their belief in the Swim’s possibility. At their invitation a well known professional swimmer, ‘Professor’ Stearne, of Manchester made an attempt on July 13th the same year. He completed a crossing in 3 hours 45 minutes 41 seconds and part of a collection taken on the occasion was used to form the Morecambe Cross Bay Swimming Association. The new Association’s first Championship was held in the same summer and, with the exception of war years have been held annually since. A Ladies’ Championship was introduced in 1912.
Since 1937 when Tom Blower of Nottingham, Morecambe Bay champion from 1935 – 1938, he became the first to graduate from the Bay to a successful Channel swim, Morecambe Bay has been one of the leading training grounds for English Channel attempts.”
Following the taking over of the Championships by the British Long Distance Swimming Association, there have been many stories and lots of fun, but with the encroachment of weed and the changing flow of currents and consequently the lay of the sandbanks, the Championship was suspended in 1991.
There are memories of really rough events when canoeists and escort boats lost their swimmers and others collected several swimmers. One canoeist recalls collecting one additional swimmer within a few minutes of the start. That swimmer decided to swim at the same speed as the person he had linked up with. As time progressed, three more swimmers also linked up. However, it was quite a day, because this small flotilla came upon the illustrious John K Slater with his canoe on a sandbank, walking around searching for a way round for the swimmer treading water in the ebbing tide. Also ashore were Jack Somerfield and several others. There was plenty of laughter and banter as everyone tried to decide on what to do. History does not formally record the outcome!
On another occasion, the first BLDSA boat a rigid dory virtually upended when it was being recovered near the Stone Jetty. It was a sight to behold as Ralph and Margaret Hinchcliffe, Lewis Craven, Carl Walker and sundry others battled with the conditions and successfully recovered the boat onto its trailer.