My first open water swim completed in March 2012 – no wetsuit!!!
However, not in the freezing waters of the UK but in Grenada. Whilst taking an early holiday in 2012, by chance, I was there when the annual Cross Harbour Swim was being held. I’d been out swimming in the surf one day, and then asked if I wanted to join a few locals for a “social swim”. This daily event was not so much to swim but to solve the world’s problems or simply chat and enjoy each others’ company – beats ploughing up and down a pool any day! During one of the swims they mentioned I should enter the cross harbour swim. It took a while to track down the details, but once known, it was too good an opportunity to pass up, especially when the temperature of the sea is warmer than the pool!
All of my swimming to date had been in triathlons or open water swim events with a wetsuit. I’d always had a huge respect for those folks that followed the “non wetsuit” approach to swimming open water and even more so in cold water. Participating, albeit in warm water, in a pair of trunks and goggles – not even a hat to wear, re-enforced my view. It was quite unnerving at first being so far off the coast without the feeling of safety a wetsuit gives.
Naturally, the event was very Caribbean with a great beach party and BBQ at the finish – shame the weather half way through the race was more reminiscent of the UK. A rainy squall blew through the area for about 5 minutes which was daunting; especially so, as I was at the point where I was furthest from land and sighting on the hills at the far side of the bay was almost impossible.
The course is a one way trip from St George’s (the capital) across the harbour, along the coast line, then out and across the bay to about 2/3rds along Grand Anse beach, so the distance is what you see. Advertised as 2.5km, after about 30 minutes swimming I had the feeling that I’d wrongly judged where the finish was, as I had quite some way still to go. This feeling was made worse since two swimmers in front of me had earlier taken a different line closer to the beach making me doubt my judgement. For the last 15 minutes of the swim I’d resigned myself to having gone wrong and would be satisfied with a nice day out with a long swim.
It was when I neared the beach and a support canoeist (the first I’d seen) shouted for me to make sure I rounded the final buoy (again, the first one I’d seen although apparently four were deployed – I must learn to breath bi-laterally) that I realised the swim was longer than stated. It was agreed later that it was more in the 3 to 3.2km range. Naturally my spirits were lifted making the swim back out to the buoy and then into the beach again much easier.
There was a large and vibrant crowd at the finish creating a great atmosphere plus the music, food and drinks!!! It makes a change to have a couple of beers at the end of an event, which also ensured everyone stayed until the very last swimmer came ashore.
In addition to participating in the party mood on the beach, the beer was also in celebration as I’d come 3rd overall out of 70 starters in a time of 47 minutes 58 seconds (1st in the 50 – 59 category) being beaten by two brothers from the Grenada Swim Team; 21 and 18 year old, with times of 45 minutes 6 seconds and 46 minutes 55 seconds respectively.
A grand day out and an event I’d thoroughly recommend..!