Scilly Swim 2015

I can never manage to stay away from the Scillies. A few months after the last time I was there I’ve been back again, to once again help out with safety cover on the Scilly Swim Challenge. Once again, about 180 mad swimmers attempted to swim between and walk across 5 (6 if we count a brief walk across Samson) of the islands, starting from St. Mary’s. This is a total of 15 km of swimming in waters several degrees colder than those around the mainland.

12004886_10207527983297343_8931950399790079652_nPhoto credit: Joanna Clegg

As before our job was to escort the swimmers, keep them going in the right direction and help them if they got into trouble. Things were a little different this year. The swimmers were divided into different pods depending on their swimming speed. I was at the back right of the red pod, which contained the fastest swimmers. We also weren’t quite so luck with the weather. There was a fair amount of wind and not quite so much sun. Nevertheless the swim went ahead.

11218977_985302754855073_8331219076574987428_nPhoto credit: Jo Kehyaian

Despite the wind the first few legs were fine, with the wind dropping for the first leg to St Martin’s and various islands providing shelter for the next few legs. We were well fed at every stop, with more cake than the mind can comfortably comprehend.

As with the previous year, it was the leg from Bryher to St. Agnes that proved tricky. As before, the swimmers became more and more spread out over this long stretch. The other kayakers at the back of my pod fell back to keep an eye on stragglers, leaving me alone. Large swell was also coming in from the Atlantic, as well as rolling up the main channel between the islands, resulting in a messy sea that made it difficult to keep track of swimmers. The swimmers were having trouble seeing where they were going when being lifted up and down by the waves. These conditions were tricky to hold position or paddle slowly in and I can only imagine how incredibly difficult it was to swim in.

The sea became calmer as we got closer to St. Agnes and a large number of our pod successfully swam the entire way. Nevertheless some of the stragglers had to be pulled out and the decision was made to cancel this leg for the slowest pod. The final swim of the day (St. Agnes to St. Mary’s) was postponed to the following morning.

12039570_10153758815670039_1356434781389106719_nPhoto credit: Lucy Burniston

The conditions the next day couldn’t have been more different. The sun was shining and the wind had decreased significantly, making the final leg significantly easier. Last year the tide had adversely affected this leg, leading to swimmers clambering up rocks to escape the strong current. This year the tide helped the swimmers, who got to finish on a sunny beach instead of climbing out early and jogging along a coast path.

 12002743_10153758809845039_6876654144773484895_nPhoto credit: Lucy Burniston

Some of us then took the opportunity to paddle around St Mary’s in the sunshine, before heading back to prepare for the party that night.

12011272_10153347582514262_1324079127412321459_nPhoto credit: Gary Ringrose

It was great to see and paddle with many of the same kayak support team from last year again, as well as several new faces. The swimmers were once again fantastic, remaining cheerful in the face of all the potentially tricky conditions and chilly weather Thanks to all the organisers, swimmers and fellow kayakers for another fantastic weekend.

11904747_10153661329751474_7521079177259851366_nPhoto credit: Sarah McCartney

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One response to “Scilly Swim 2015

  1. As one of the swimmers, I want to thank all you guys again for doing such a great job in difficult circumstances. I did find myself distanced in the red pod about 1k off St Agnes and it was so difficult to see both where I was going and other swimmers or safety crew, so how you could keep a watch on such a broken group I don’t know.
    It was stunning and could only happen with your support, so I hope you got as. Uch of a buzz out of it as we did!

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