Here’s something we stumbled across recently that caught our eye – the opportunity to swim with sharks in Scotland.
Now we know sharks are more often associated with California, South Africa and Australia than Scotland, and in most of those places you probably don’t want to swim with them. But in Scotland the sharks, despite looking big and threatening, are altogether more friendly, just like the climate!
The sharks off the west coast of Scotland grow up to 10m long, weigh several tonnes and have a mouth over one metre wide, but luckily those mouths have evolved to scoop up plankton from the surface of the ocean rather than rip swimmers to pieces. The sharks in question are basking sharks, which visit Scottish waters between May and September each year before returning to the sub-tropics. Scientists now believe Scotland is an important breeding area for these magnificent creatures.
The same waters are also host to whales, dolphins, eagles and otters, so it’s sort of like a swimming safari.
To find out more, contact Basking Shark Scotland, which organises swimming and snorkelling trips to see these gentle giants.
This year I’ve counted 81 different groups who have organized at least one swim in 2013 (186 events in total, which at the time of writing did not include events organised by the ASA). These groups include charities, coaches or coaching organisations, triathlon clubs, swimming clubs or communities, venue owners and professional event organisers, with the latter putting on the most races (see chart). This diversity of organisers gives rise to events with a range of characteristics, which of course is part of the joy of open water swimming.
Who puts on the most open water swimming races in the UK?
It’s also interesting to look quickly at the average number of events put on by each type of organiser. So, for examples, charities put on an average of 1.3 events implying that most do just one while some might do two. Venue owners in contrast put on an average of five, perhaps reflecting their vested interest in bringing in swimmers to their lakes. Professional event managers average 2.5, which seems low but is perhaps because the primary focus of these organisers is triathlon, with swimming being a spin off activity.
Average number of events by organiser type
Ave. no. of events
Swim club / community
Toby Cullen of OvertaQuatix compiles the event listings for H2Open Magazine. He also maintains and regular updates this list at his website www.overtaquatix.com
We've just received this from Henley Swim. Sounds good.
"Henley Swim is pleased to announce a totally new competition – The Temple Island Sprints, which will feature as part of The blueseventy Henley Mile event on Sunday 14th July. This competition will feature a series of heats, semi-finals & finals over a 100m upstream course, set against the backdrop of the iconic Temple Island. Opposite the main event area, this setting will provide the perfect venue for friends and supporters to view and cheer on the competitors in some fast paced action.
The winner of each heat will go through to the next round, until there are four finalists, who will then go head to head in the final. Initial heat numbers will be confirmed on the day of the event, however, there will be a maximum of 4 rounds, including the final.
Details are to be confirmed, however, the first heats will be based on the entrant’s Henley Mile finishing time, with the slowest time heats taking place first, finishing with the final heat, with the fastest mile finishing times.
This competition will take place after the Henley Mile prize giving, and will be open to all Henley Mile entrants. If you have already entered the Henley Mile and would like to enter this competition, all you need to do is update the Activities Section of your registration form.
The competition is free for Henley Mile entrants. Anyone who would like to enter the Temple Island Sprints only will be able to enter on the day, depending on the number of places available, for a fee of £5."
Launched yesterday, this new Neptune music player from FINIS ticks a number of boxes for swimmers. Firstly, and necessarily, it’s waterproof to 3m. Secondly, rather than having to plug buds into your ears the Neptune relies on ‘bone conduction’. The ‘speakers’ are pads that rest on your temple bone just in front of your ears, which means you could simultaneously wear ear plugs. Sound transmission underwater is better than above (and is in fact even better if you wear ear plugs). Thirdly, Neptune can be used in swimming pools, lakes and the ocean.
You do need to wear goggles as both the speakers and player clip to the strap. The wiring runs along the goggle strap and can be tucked under to prevent too much interference with swimming. For more serious training and faster swimming a swimming hat would help hold things in place.
Uploading music is easy as the Neptune can be plugged into a computer’s USB port and songs ‘drag and dropped’ onto it. Songs bought from iTunes need to be converted to MP3 format in iTunes but can then also be drag and dropped.
Retired runner Iwan Thomas holds the British 400m record with a time of 44.36 seconds, which he did back in 1997. It takes him much longer to cover the same distance swimming. Like many runners, he struggles in the water. Nevertheless he’s excited to have signed up for the Great North and the Great Scottish Swims this year, and may even do all five events of the series.
It won’t be his first open water experience. He says he enjoyed swimming in rivers as a child and he’s done a couple of triathlons over sprint and Olympic distances. One of those nearly ended in disaster.
“I basically went off too fast for my ability. I thought I was doing quite well until a kayaker stopped me. I’d gone way off course and had swum into a bank of reeds,” he says.
He adds that it took him a while to master breathing. “I couldn’t understand why I was getting out of breath so quickly until someone pointed out that I should be breathing out under water.”
It sounds like Thomas could benefit from some instruction and open water skills practice, including sighting. However he seems to be strangely reluctant to train. With his triathlon he, “just turned up and did it.” He plans to do pretty much the same thing for his swims.
“The great thing about these mass participation swims is that you don’t have to be a fantastic swimmer to take part. I love mass particpation events and the interaction with other swimmers, some of which I know will be really happy to beat an Olympian. I know I won’t be the fastest, but then I shouldn’t be the slowest either.”
While this doesn’t sound terribly competitive, Thomas will still be aiming to beat his own previous performance over the distance, and he would also like to improve through the season. Beyond that he doesn’t know where swimming will take him.
“Endurance isn’t my thing so I can’t imagine taking on anything like the English Channel,” he says. “However, I do enjoy challenges so I may do more triathlon.”
Spice Girls singer Melanie C, also known as ‘Sporty Spice’, has signed up for Human Race’s Women Only Open Water Swim, which takes place on 7 July. She is tackling the 750m distance in preparation for a triathlon later in the year.
The swim, at Dorney Lake, is one of seven open water events hosted by Human Race this year. In its first running in 2012 the event proved popular and attracted over 100 swimmers. More are expected in 2013. As well as the 750m distance, swimmers can also do 1500m or 3km.
“The Human Race Women Only series is a fantastic celebration of women in sport. It allows ladies to compete in an environment which is encouraging and fun,” says the singer.