Royal West of Scotland Amateur Boat Club 150th Aquatic Extravanganza

Balloch early morning in the sun

Balloch early morning in the sun

The glorious weather continued after the Bardowie race, with sun from dawn to dusk for two weeks. At this time of year dawn is around 430am, with sunset about 10pm, and then the long twilight takes over, with complete darkness a mere dream of colder days. The local media were talking about the heat wave as the maximum temperature sat above 20c for days on days. Memories of the stunning summer of 1976 were rekindled with nostalgic reminisces of the times when the tarmac melted and you had to sit on a towel in the car. Sounds like a normal spring summer and autumn in the and of my birth.

But I have to mention that when the weather is like this, there are few places on the planet that are better. A relatively gentle sun, no flies, sunburn risk is diminished, the long twilight, and the sun on the lochs and glens glinting off those amazing shades of green that are so different to the brown hues of my former home.

The other good thing about the sun is that it quickly warmed the water up in the lochs, making it warm enough to shrug off the wet-suit. Yes, I have graduated to swimming in Loch Lomond in skins, sans wet-suit. And it felt great to have the warm 15c water caressing the skin, as I swam in my normal swimming spots. Sure, I was lower in the water, and swimming slower, but this was fresh water and it required me to focus on my technique and not rely so much on the assistance of the wet-suit that helps so much with body position. Yes it was harder to swim, but it was fantastic to have moved beyond the wet-suit for the first time in a few years.

Royal West of Scotland Amateur Boatmans Club at Greenock on the Clyde River

Royal West of Scotland Amateur Boat Club at Greenock on the Clyde River

We had been contacted by Joe from the RWSABC to see if we wanted to take part in the one mile race at the club as part of their 150th birthday celebrations. A few of us jumped at the chance to compete in this event. The club is based at Greenock which was one of the main deep water ports for Glasgow at a point where the river enters the Firth of Clyde. The place is stepped in history with lots of fine houses fronting the two-mile wide river. Unfortunately the town has suffered along with a lot of other places in this part of Scotland, due to the collapse of the ship building industry, and the slow death of heavy industry. It was only 100 years ago that ships built on the Clyde comprised one-third of the merchant navy in the British Empire, and they even fitted out part of the RMS Titanic.

A view of Dumbarton on the Clyde River taken form the train to Greenock

A view of Dumbarton on the Clyde River taken form the train to Greenock

A few went down the river to have a couple of swims on a Friday night in the weeks before the swim. It was only about a 40 minute drive from Glasgow, but it was to a part of the region I had not visited before. The first time we swam the 2km course up to the yellow marker and back, I was in the water for 32 minutes on a still evening with no tide running. A seal even popped its head up to watch us as we exited the water. The second time was into the outgoing tide and wind, so the one km up took just under 30 minutes: but the way back was a slighter quicker 15 minutes.

I mentioned earlier that Glasgow had been having a few weeks of summer with lots of sun, and virtually no wind. Well the day of the swim meant an end to that, with cloud, rain, and a fresh breeze on the water. I felt sorry for the club, as they were celebrating their 150th anniversary, but at least the sailors would be happy. I was amazed that this club has been in existence since 1866, when my home nation was a mere collection of colonies, when the USA had just gone through a destructive Civil War, and the first telegraph cable was laid across the Atlantic Ocean linking the UK and North America.

The beach in front of the club, with part of the course visible

The beach in front of the club, with part of the course visible

My friend Vince and I had caught the train from Glasgow for a change, and as we arrived at the club we noticed the fresh breeze, and the chop. As we put our wet-suits on in the change room we chatted to some of the other competitors, and one of them talked to me about the swimming he had done in Sydney at Manly, Bondi, Bronte, Coogee and Clovelly, as well as Bondi Icebergs.

The briefing took place upstairs at the club, and the race was to be two laps of a half mile course starting on the beach, out to the first buoy, then up river to the first slipway, return to the first buoy, back to the slipway, and finish just off the beach. We stood on the edge of the water, the 30 or so invitation swimmers, and we had our warm up: it was quite cold, being at most 12c, making my feet shiver. I was in awe that my friends Gary and Emma had chosen to do the race without the wet-suit on.

The race started, with most of the competitors on the left had side.. However, I had walked a short way down the beach with anther swimmer so that I was closer to the first mark. In we went, straight into the chop, and it was fantastic. Around the first bout I was surprised that I was in third place, thinking that other swimmers would soon catch me. We headed down to the slipway marker, and it was not easy into the chop and the wind, making sighting difficult. Before long another swimmer joined me, and I did manage to sit on his heels for a short time, before the chop separated us.

Around the slipway mark, and I was in fourth spot, and all I could think of was that Vince would surely pass me soon. Back down to the first mark was a lot easier, with the chop working with you. Around that mark again, and then the hard slog back to the slipway, and still no-one went past me. I noticed the front swimmers were around 100m in front of me by this stage, and I knew I would not catch them.

Around the slipway mark for the second and final time, and it was time to push hard for the swim home. Before long I was coming into the beach, and I tapped the marker to which was the finish line. As I exited the water I noticed that Vince was standing on the beach in front of me, and I realised that he had passed me before the first mark. If only I had not told him about the swim, I would have finished in third place. I wandered over to the timekeepers and they told me I had finished in fourth place, and my time was just over 26 minutes. Once again I was the first Australian to finish.

The cap and the medal from the swim

The cap and the medal from the swim

Vince and I stayed on the beach and waited for Gary to finish in first place for the male non wet-suit, then Emma as first female non wet-suit, and then John coming in a very credible 27th place. Our little band of swimmers from the WWS had managed 1st, 4th, 8th, 24th and 27th.  had once again enjoyed my swim in the salt water, and the challenge of swimming in the chop in cool water. My first salt-water race since Easter 2014 at Terrigal in Australia.

We enjoyed our hot shower, and our cold beers as the band played and we watched the sailing events. We stayed for the presentation, then caught the train back to Glasgow. A big thanks to Joe for organising this event, I think I will try to get down to the club for one of their social swims, or even their big swim across the Clyde.

So another swim in a new location, with new friends made. I wonder what will be my next adventure on this open water swimming adventure.

Another balmy summer day in Scotland, with my medal in front of the club

Another balmy summer day in Scotland, with my medal in front of the club

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