Over 800 competitors braved the wintry waters of Windermere for the third edition of the Big Chill Swim winter swimming gala, which took place last weekend at the Low Wood Bay Marina, Windermere.
The water temperature was a chilly 5.4 degrees for the weekend’s non wetsuit winter swimming gala and participants ranged from serious and experienced winter swimmers travelling from as far afield as the USA and Russia seeking medal hauls, to local teams in fancy dress raising funds for charity. The relay teams really outshone themselves this year, with a team dressed as Loch Ness Lassies with tutus and blue wigs, and the East German Ladies Swim Team (all male group from Hampstead) in eye watering tiny white thongs.Amongst the competitors was current winter swimming world record holder, and former Channel swimming world champion, Christof Wandratsch, who had travelled from Germany to race at the event. Christof took gold medals at the Big Chill Swim for the 450m and 1km endurance events, beating the time set in 2014 by Estonian Henri Kaarma by 40 seconds. Channel swimmer and Windermere two-way swimmer Alexia O’Mara from Parliament Hill Lido in London took gold for the ladies 450m and Wendy Figures from Yorkshire Outdoor Swimmers the 1km prize.
The action packed winter swimming weekend had 8 hours of solid racing on Saturday, and 4 hours on Sunday with races sanctioned by the International Winter Swimming Association on the Saturday, and the International Ice Swimming Association on the Sunday. Radzi Chinyanganya of Blue Peter provided Sunday’s commentary for the inaugural International Ice Swimming Association 1km British Championships. Radzi participated in the Big Chill Swim events in 2014 as part of his preparation for his Sport Relief challenge in February last year, “It was great to be back at the Big Chill Swim this year,” said Radzi “last year I was set a cold water swim challenge by Blue Peter which I never thought I’d enjoy, but I had such a good time with the support of Chillswim that I really wanted to come back
and support their events”.
The president of the International Winter Swimming Association, Mariia Yrjo-Koskinen from Finland, presented the medals at the Saturday prize giving for the second year running and said: “The atmosphere at the Big Chill Swim is very special, it’s like we are amongst family, and we look forward to returning again next year and further supporting the growth of Chillswim events.”
“The team at English Lakes Hotels were once again delighted to host the Big Chill Swim at the Low Wood Bay Hotel Resort and Marina,” said David Neale, Group Commercial Director. “We have seen the event grow over the past three years, and the atmosphere amongst the participants is very friendly even though it has now become a major event on the open water swimming calendar. Our staff also entered into the spirit of the occasion with a team in the relay event who successfully retained the ‘Cumbria’ team title for the third year!”
The hotel also hosted a film evening and Barn Dance for competitors over the weekend. Organizer Colin Hill, of Cumbrian events company ‘Chillswim’ was thrilled with the events success, which has tripled in size since the event’s inception in 2013. “Open water swimming continues to be one of the fasting growing sports in the UK, and our company organizes swimming events year round in the Lake District. Having worked in locations around the world on open water swimming events, I firmly believe that nowhere matches the Lake District for a destination event.”