Hampton Court to Kingston Bridge

One of the risks with open water swimming is that weather conditions may force a curtailment, suspension or cancellation of your event. Rivers in particular are influenced not only by the weather on the day, but by how much rain has fallen in the preceding days. An unusually wet summer in 2012 meant the scheduled July running of the iconic Hampton Court to Kingston Bridge was postponed until October. Still, this is a swim well-worth waiting for.
The swim starts opposite one of the most famous palaces in the world and covers 2.25 miles of one of the most famous rivers in the world. Despite it's proximity to London, the setting is semi-rural as the river meanders past the extensive Hampton Court grounds, once the playground of King Henry VIII. Spectators can follow the action from the adjoining tow path and cheer their favourite swimmer from start to finish.
The swim is organised by experienced event organiser, Human Race, and, as you would expect, is well run. Swimmers drop off their bags near registration and a fleet of vans ferry them (ie the bags) to the finish line. Electronic timing means results are available as soon as you cross the line.
Swimmers times usually range from around 45 minutes up to 2 hours but in 2012 participants received a massive boost from the current with the fastest covering the distance in just 30 minutes and some reporting loping 50 minutes from previous efforts. The downside of such a strong current was holding swimmers together at the start and the high silt-load in the water which reduced visibility under the water to nil.
Typically over 1,000 people take part, and are set off in waves about 10 minutes apart. If you fancy your chances of winning make sure you apply to swim in the first or elite wave with all the other fast swimmers. Otherwise join one of the later more relaxed waves and simply enjoy the ride.
The water temperature in the Thames in July is often 18-20 degrees but in by October had dropped to 12 degrees. The organiser allows both wetsuit and non-wetsuit swimmers, and even at 12 degrees a good number took to the water without.
For more information see www.humanrace.co.uk

01 Cover November

Issue 43 November 2020

  • The Ice Man - meeting Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof
  • Cold water swimming - why do it, how, and what are the benefits?
  • Our new monthly columnist, Sarah Thomas
  • Olympian Keri-anne Payne on how to make the most of limited pool sessions
  • Elaine Howley on the first Asian woman to swim the Channel, Arati Sah

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