With the pool closing from September 1st for the Club's refurb swim coach Julian Meldrum chats about the exciting world of open water swimming and how this closure could provide an exciting new challenge for members...
Just after 6am on a Sunday morning, I slid off a pontoon into the River Arun to join a diverse group of men and women aged from late teens to mid 70s into the seaweed-infused, but slightly brackish water. The timing was carefully set by the organisers Raw Energy Pursuits, to hit a critical period of slack water at high tide, with nine waves distinguished by various coloured hats going three minutes apart. Volunteer marshals counted everyone into the water - and electronic chips on our ankles counted everyone out again at the exit.
The current was still strong enough to feel the difference between the first 200m upstream, to a turning buoy, and the 1300m downstream which powered me through the fastest 1500m I’ve completed in more than 25 years. At 19 degrees, wetsuits were optional but, like almost everyone else, I wore mine for the extra buoyancy and comfort.
The race briefing was clear: when you see the Castle on the hill, go for the exit! This, my first triathlon of the year, was a race which would qualify hundreds of people to join the British team for the World Age Group Championships. Or not. No pressure!
I’ve swam in dozens of open water events including the Thames at Windsor and the Ouse at St Neots, in the seas around Britain, in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, in lakes set up for fishing or for water sports including two Olympic venues (London’s Serpentine and Eton’s Dorney Lake), in scenic surroundings like Lake Geneva/Lac Leman with its famous fountain, Lake Bala/Llyn Tegid - that’s ‘beautiful lake’ in Welsh, and Rutland Water, England’s most famous nesting site for ospreys.
If you’re new to open swimming and are feeling nervous about competing alone why not compete in a triathlon event with one or two friends, tri247 has an amazing selection of relay events happening around the UK.
Finally, if competitive events aren't your thing, but swimming is your passion, then consider a swimming holiday. Swim Trek offer adventure swimming around European coasts, and Swim Quest offer a range of challenges for all abilities worldwide.
Dive into a new opportunity and check out open water events near you: Find a Race.