Two Way Windermere 2017
After receiving 12 entries since the event was released in January 2017, 10 swimmers and their crews managed to make it to the start line for the 2017 Two Way Windermere event. Only 3 of which had experience of a 20+ mile swim before thus the majority of the field were swimming themselves into new territory!
Recent rainfall meant that water temperatures for the time of year remained 2-3c below seasonal norms at 16c but expected air temperatures overnight at 7-8c was always going to mean a tough environment for all involved particularly in the middle of the night (must have felt warmer in the water!). The heavily-anticipated meteor shower provided a welcome distraction to the volunteers and the breaststroke swimmer but of course the front crawlers just had to get on and endure without the evenings free entertainment!
9 swimmers were scheduled to set off around 5pm with only Becky Lewis entering the water at 7.30pm.
There were some absolutely cracking times for the 1st leg of the event (see below) as the competitors headed down to the turn-buoy. Adrian Rotchell turning first at the southern extremity at 10.39pm with Melanie Holland only a short 5 mins later followed by Neil Meadows. Amazingly, Becky Lewis navigated the buoy at 11.33pm requiring but a mere 4 hours and 1 minute to complete the first 10.5 miles!
During the night, boat crews, race control and, most importantly, First Aid, were kept remarkably busy with 5 of the 10 starters retiring during the hours of darkness with David Randall and Kevin Welsh calling it a day before the turnbuoy. Melanie Holland soon after the turn plus Philip Yorke and Neil Meadows at the ferry on the return leg. They all must have been absolutely gutted to not finish but are reminded that the body of water isn’t going anywhere thus can return to the Championships in 2019 or the BLDSA can certify their individual attempt! Most were evidently either cold, tired, nauseous, suffering from cramp or a mixture of all 4!
Amazingly, the first swimmer home was the last in to depart with Becky Lewis smashing her own Championship record in just over 8 hours 25mins (it was just before 4am and she had blasted past the whole field!). Many onlookers suggesting that her finishing time would actually be a reasonable effort for a one way! We all had empathy again for Dad, Roger, on the oars who once more carries the scars of battle in his hands keeping up with his daughter! She was asked immediately after the swim how she felt and offered ‘not bad’ and opined when informed of a new record ‘oh that’s quite good’. Forever the humble and understated. She looked fresh as a daisy, got in mum’s car and went home to bed! Congratulations from us all Becks.
Adrian Rotchell was the first man home smashing his own anticipated time by almost 2 hours at 12 hours 18mins. No stranger to BLDSA events, veteran of Loch Lomond, the English Channel and another impressive swim to put on his increasing roster of 20+ milers. One really wonders what the man would achieve with some swim training and implementation of nutritional advice!
Clare Watkins was the 2nd lady home in an impressive time of 13 hours 12 mins ably assisted by her crew comprising of husband Mark, and even more competent daughters, Issy and Alex, who at 15 and 16 have rowing/life saving experience beyond their years and a real asset to mum and dad. Well done ladies.
Mark Yare was next to emerge from the water looking very strong at the finish despite having just completed a massive marathon swim in 13 hours 43mins.
Last Man home was Stephen Maloney who had slowed materially from the turnbuoy but must have been able to hear his daughters cheers from within 1 hour of Waterhead as he put on a final spurt to finish in 15hours and 5 mins…He really pushed himself to the limit of his endurance but refused to be beaten showing incredible willpower, stubbornness and tenacity to get the swim done.
Interestingly, Clare, Mark and Stephen had really ‘stepped-up’ this year to a whole new level to achieve this personal best distance having only previously succeeded in ca. 1/2 the distance. Very impressive indeed and shows what can be achieved for those at the beginning of their swim journeys.
The BLDSA Two Way Windermere event remains an extreme event which could be considered at least as tough if not harder than the English Channel and shouldn’t be taken lightly in any way. (Hence the qualifier for the event mirrors precisely that of the EC – a 6 hour swim in basic costume in 16c or under within 30 months of the event). The water is usually colder than the English Channel, is less buoyant, the air temp is usually lower plus the overnight billing offers zero sun on ones back. I think most would agree that swimmers & crews learnt a great deal about themselves and each other (both good and bad!) on the night which is good experience for whatever swim challenges the future holds. Remember the flagship BLDSA event in 2018 is Loch Lomond – an impressive short-list to get your name on! The event returns to Windermere in 2019.
It would be impossible to put on this event without so many amazing volunteers giving up their time. Whilst waiting for the swimmers to re-emerge at Waterhead, I estimated that no fewer than 20 volunteer officials had willingly given up their time with NO sleep to ensure the safe-running of the event.
Volunteering started at 3pm on the Saturday with Kathryn Ayre and Tracy Cusworth kindly giving up their evening to ensure that all boats, boat crews and swimmers had all the necessary kit (LED lights, maps, life jackets etc) to be able to embark safely on the task at hand.
It was really lovely to see so many of the ‘Class of 2015’ event return to ‘be on the other side’ helping out with Debbie Taylor, Jai Evans, Jo Blackburn on turnbuoy kayak duties, Jane Bell as chief timekeeper after recent shoulder surgery and Tors Hamilton ably assisting Amanda Bell with land based logistics at Fell Foot. Previous champ and no stranger to 2WW, Nikki Fraser, also lit up her kayak with fairy lights with boyfriend David Kershaw to ensure we had 2 kayakers marshalling each and every swimmer between all the moored boats at Fell Foot. Thank you Nikki and David.
YET AGAIN, volunteering at a BLDSA event, we welcomed swim legend, awesome blog writer and absolute bastion of swimming knowledge, Karen Throsby, who put a nasty wrist injury to one side this year (even recently having to pull out of a Lake Geneva attempt) to help marshall swimmers round the turn-buoy. Thank you Karen.
The role of Patrick Smith cannot be underestimated in Race Control which took the pressure of yours truly who could focus on making tea/staring at meteors/trying to make jokes etc whilst the swim was underway. Patrick runs both the Coniston Vets & Seniors and Colwick Park swims so leads by example in ‘giving back’ to the association. Thanks again Patrick for your input.
Safety boats were again expertly manned by Mick Blackburn, Martyn Coates, Chris Hickling and Helen Brindle. They were kept very busy particularly when the air was at it’s coldest and their thermos flasks were running close to empty. They were all appreciative of a brew once back at Waterhead!
The biggest volunteer shout out of the night has to go to Simon Wallis, Annie Stafford on First Aid ably assisted by former 2-Way swim sec, Gill Stables, who ensured that retirements were dealt with in a timely fashion and reunited with their cars/families back at the start line. Their experience was absolutely invaluable on the night & morning and without you the event just wouldn’t have been possible.
Certificates and the famous 2WW swim caps where presented to successful finishers at the Wateredge Inn on the Sunday evening with those completing 1/2 the course getting a 1-way certificate and those completing the event being entitled to receive the famous orange 2WW swim cap which they will no doubt treasure, boast about when at next swim training session.
I would like to thank the Fell Foot National Trust, Lake Wardens, Windermere Cruises, Windermere Sailing club, the Wateredge Inn and anyone else I have forgotten above!
The next 2WW event takes place in 2019 around a full moon at the beginning of August. Not sure I will be able to guarantee you a meteor shower then but will make an attempt.
BLDSA President 2017
Swim Secretary Champion of Champions (South)
Swim Secretary Two Way Windermere