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Record numbers take part in the Big Chillswim

Four years ago a winter swimming gala in Windermere might have seemed like a bit of a risky proposition. But such is the burgeoning popularity of cold water swimming, more than 1000 participants signed up to the fourth incarnation of the Big Chillswim. 

The event has become not only a highlight of the UK open water swimming scene, but also an official stop on the IWSA Winter Swimming World Cup circuit and, for the first time this year, host to the WOWSA awards. But despite attracting some serious ice swimmers, the mood remains friendly, welcoming and sometimes downright eccentric. If you want to race against swimmers dressed as sharks or the cast of the Wizard of Oz, then this is the event for you.

On Saturday, Windermere welcomed first timers taking on the 30m heads-up breaststroke as well as 60m, 120m, 450m and relay races. The 240m races took place on Sunday morning and experienced ice swimmers from around the world also had to wait for the second day of action to compete in the 1000m endurance event. But despite the rain and the wind, spirits remained high across both days of competition. The water temperature was 6.7ºC on Saturday and 6.4ºC on Sunday.
Despite an evening of highland flinging and a few pints of local ale, I was up bright and early for my 240m race on Sunday morning. The races are a wet start with no diving, and the start whistle doesn’t blow until all swimmers’ shoulders are under the water. 240m freestyle in the cold, black water of Windermere is probably the best hangover cure I know. Afterwards there were hot tubs and sauna to warm up in.

As Sunday morning progressed, so conditions deteriorated. As the wind picked up, the water became choppy, and the 1000m swimmers had to navigate turbulent conditions to finish their laps of the pool in front of the Low Wood Bay Hotel.

Men’s 1000m results

Christof Wandratsch 12:42.27

Henri Kaarma 13:50.48
Paul Smith 14:08.20
Julian Taylor 15:56.02
Tobias Hirst 16:04.50
Graeme Lowe 18:19.09
Stuart Hinde 18:25.63
Ger Kennedy 18:28.66
Adrian Sarchet 18:43.64
David Stewart 19:04.57
Mick Hinde 20:13.84
Bryn Dymott 20:45.34
Hywel Davies 21:29.93
John Dyer 22:03.83
Mark Cohen 23:07.06
Mike Durkin 24:17.13
Louis Lecocq 26:10.31

Women’s 1000m results

Jess Campbell 15:01.20

Wendy Figures 15:56.56
Lucy Donnelly 16:02.16
Jaimie Monahan 17:37.00
Alexia O’Mara 17:50.01
Andrea Startin 18:05.52
Catherine Hartle 18:07.08
Cath Pendleton 19:19.91
Viki Brice 20:50.57
Helen Beveridge 21:09.20
Alison Brisby 21:34.88
Sarah Taylor 23:14.53
Naomi Wakeford 24:52.02
Jackie Cobell 25:07.33
Rosalind Edmonds 25:09.42
Paula Cherriman 25:27.64
Emma Cummings 25:59.40
Victoria Moore 26:11.36
Julie Lloyd 26:26.73