The Big Chill Swim returns this weekend to Windermere in the Lake District. Now in its fifth incarnation, what once may have seemed a slightly risky proposition (a swimming gala? In the Lake District? In the middle of winter?) is now a cornerstone of the cold water swimming calendar, attracting new swimmers each year as the sport continues its growth in popularity.
“The event is already fully subscribed and we have again reached the maximum entry number of 1,000 competitors registered to take part in a full range of relays, sprints and endurance races. As well as the professional races, there will be the usual fun and games for the more recreational swimmers to raise funds for charity with novelty races and fancy dress,” says event director Colin Hill.
Professional and amateur open water swimmers from Chile, USA, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Germany are jetting in to the region to take part in one of the Lake District’s largest mass participation events.
Races on the Saturday include the 450m endurance event and a series of multi stroke ‘sprints’ at distances ranging from 30m to 120m, before a series of team relays commence in the afternoon. New for 2016 is the 30m ‘Ice Fly’, a competitive butterfly race.
Sunday’s racing starts with a 240m race held in age group divisions and culminates in the 1km British Championships, the main endurance challenge for experienced cold water swimmers bracing themselves for 32 widths of the marina.
Ben Berry from English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues says: “The Big Chill Swim here at Low Wood Bay Resort Hotel & Marina is always very well supported locally and we’re looking forward to another great day’s racing in a truly wonderful setting. The relays are especially fun to see as they are a great team challenge and popular with those wanting to raise funds.
“Outdoor open water swimming, unheard of as a mainstream sport a few years ago, is now hugely popular both here in the Lake District and around the world."