Who is tougher: girls or boys? This vexed question has been answered (though possibly not finally) by Chichester Cormorants’ summer-long series of open-water swimming races. Tied for first place at the top of the league table were four female racers.
Open-water racing isn’t for the timid. In the first three races, held in the seas off West Wittering beach, the swimmers had to contend variously with cold water, wind, currents, surf, evening sunshine in their eyes and fast-flowing tides.
The final round, in a freshwater lake, added cold water (again), sucking mud, the danger of becoming tangled in a dangly willow tree, and fear of giant carp.
In an open-water race you’re trying to defeat the conditions as much as the other swimmers, and this often produces great camaraderie. “The thing I’ve enjoyed most,” said race organiser Paul Mason, “is the way the swimmers have helped each other out. More than once, a swimmer gave up his or her own chance of winning by stopping to help someone younger, less experienced, or just in need of a friendly face.”
After the challenge of four races in varied conditions, the reward. Not just hot dogs cooked on the beach – everyone got those, served piping-hot as they stepped out of the water. For the winners – Lauren Smith, Jane West, Florence Ingram and Olivia Spink – there was the chance of one of the prizes donated by Wittering Surf Shop.
The prize pot contained surfing lessons, a bodyboard, a wetsuit, sweatshirts and T-shirts donated by Wittering Surf Shop.
“I’m really delighted to support this”, said owner Nick Cheshire. “It’s been great to see the kids out there, racing in the sea with such confidence.”
According to Cormorants coach Darren Sims, plans are already under way for a repeat performance next summer. “The open-water series looks like being a highlight of the club’s calendar for many years to come. It’s been amazing to race in the beautiful surroundings of West Wittering. We couldn’t hold these races without the support of the lifeguards there, so a big thank you to them.”
If this piques your interest, in pool or open-water swimming, Chichester Cormorants are a competitive club based at the Westgate Centre in Chichester and are always keen to welcome new members. There are more details on the club’s website at chichester-cormorants.org