Thursday, June 5, 2014
Saturday (May 24) saw Exmouth Swimming and Life Saving Society test out a new open water course which, it is hoped, will replace the annual Fairway Swim, writes Ian Lang.
The Fairway Swim had taken place for 50 years however, changing conditions in the estuary meant the old route was considered unsafe, particularly for kayak escorts, by the swim’s organisers.
Six swimmers were invited to take part in the swim with Exmouth channel swimmers Olly White, Mark Westaway, and Jamie Page joined by Stephen Price who has conquered the English, Irish and Bristol Channels, Kathy Anzuino who last year completed a three- person Channel relay and Gemma Franks who is training to swim the Channel next summer.
The new route starts and finishes on Exmouth Beach in front of the RNLI lifeboat station. Swimmers swim with the tide up river past the floating café to buoy 23 where they turn and swim back down the river after the tide turns to complete the five mile course with tidal assistance.
Swimmers and their kayak escorts experienced some tricky and choppy conditions at the start of the swim, but as the swimmers progressed up the river conditions improved with the water flat once swimmers had passed the marina. Overcast and rainy conditions added to the cold; a challenge posed by the traditional timing of the Fairway Swim which has always taken place early in the open water season. In the time it took swimmers to swim to the turn buoy and return past the Marina the wind had died down somewhat and conditions had improved although swimmers still had to battle rolling waves as they swam the length of the seafront to the finish.
At the finish the swimmers fed back that the new course was both enjoyable and challenging. The way the course is rough at the end and particularly the finish posed a challenge as did the water temperature. The distance of the swim was also slightly longer than the previous Fairway course.
Olly White, who has been the fastest Exmouth swimmer for over a decade and has been fastest male in the last few swims was first to finish, but closely challenged by first lady home Gemma Franks. Mark Westaway was also the only swimmer to test the course swimming breaststroke.
Exmouth Swimming and Life Saving Society would like to thank the Exmouth Scout leaders, Exmouth Beach Rescue, Boat owners and all the other people who volunteered their time and helped the swim to go ahead. Open Water secretary Barry Westaway now hopes that the new swim can be opened up to a full field of entrants from across the country next year.