This swim is not the famous Pier to Pub swim in Lorne in Victoria Australia where they have 4000 swimmers with places allocated by a ballot. No this is the bespoke Pier to Pub swim in Loch Lomond in Scotland. The start line is the Burnfoot ferry wharf on the mainland, and the finishing point is the pub on Inchmurrin the largest fresh-water island in the British Isles. The total distance to be swum is around 2.3 km.
The swim was originally scheduled for the Sunday morning, but a strong easterly wind of around 30 mph created a 2 to 3 foot chop on the loch, making conditions unsafe for the swimmers. The swim was then switched to the reserve date of the last Tuesday in August.
It was fortuitous that the swim was postponed on the Sunday morning, as my social swimming group had organised a swim from one side of Loch Lomond to the other and return, a distance of at least 10 km. We did go ahead with this swim, but once we got out from behind Inchtavannach and swam towards Inchconnachan we started to notice the wind and chop. We headed towards Inchlonaig and the side chop was quite heavy, and really tested the navigation skills. When everyone arrived at the island we then swam for 200 metres straight into the chop to test whether we were going to try to get to the eastern shore of the loch. However, in the interests of safety we decided to not attempt the long 2km push into the wind, and turned around. After a stop for food and drink on a secluded protected beach on Inchlonaig, we changed our plans. We headed to Luss, and then swim back to our starting point at Aldochlay. So instead of swimming 10km, we only swam 7.5km, but the conditions were not suitable, and it as sensible to be flexible.
Tuesday evening arrived and the conditions could not have been more different to Sunday. There was no wind, and the only waves on the loch were caused by the pleasure boats. We arrived at the ferry wharf, not really knowing what to expect as we had been told to arrive in time to be ready to swim at 7pm. We lined up and were given our race numbers written on the back of our hands, and put our bags on the ferry. We were then given our race briefing, which was quite simple. Swim out past the moored yachts, and then to the point on the edge of the island, go around that, swim another 400m, and finish at the beach in-between the two wharves. There is a moored boat about half way, and there would be kayakers to guide us.
That sounded easy, and the 40 or so swimmers entered the water, with one brave soul doing it without a wetsuit. The water felt a bit warmer than it had been a few weeks, as we prepared for the start signal. We started, and I soon got into my stride, thanks to all the swimming I had been doing in Loch Lomond and my favourite new training area at a quarry on the southern outskirts of Glasgow. It was a delight to be swimming on such a beautiful evening, with ben Lomond clearly visible as I breathed to the left, and Balloch to the right, with the island straight ahead. The water was very calm, and there was no problem in navigating, as the island was clearly visible and there were also a few swimmers ahead of me.
I soon started to catch a swimmer, and for a while I sat on his feet, enjoying the drag and the fast pace. Suddenly he stopped, and I had to veer around him to avoid a collision. I then thought, good, I have left him behind, when he noticed me, and then started swimming again, soon going past me. I tried valiantly to catch him, but despite my best efforts, he stayed 5m or so ahead of me all the way to the beach.
Before I knew it I had arrived at the finish line on the island. I had swum quite well, and was very surprised to find out I had finished in sixth or seventh, with a quick time of just over 37 minutes. My friend Gary had come second for the third year running, and Jess was the first woman home and fourth overall. It was great to talk to all the other swimmers when they arrived, with an excellent atmosphere of enjoying the occasion on such a stunning evening. The hotel then turned on a nice supper for us all, and I even ran into a fellow Aussie serving at the bar. As night fell we were then ferried back to the mainland, with a truly magical event coming to a close. This was one of my top 5 swims of all time, and I look forward to the chance of returning next year to do it again, and I will wear the cap with pride. A huge thankyou to the organisers of this wonderful swim.