Exmouth Fairway Buoy 2008

4.75 miles, Exmouth

On Sunday 1 June 2008 the Exmouth Swimming and Life Saving Society held the 45th annual 4.75 mile (7.6 km) Fairway Buoy Swim. Four of us from the SLSC made our way out west from London for the race - Tom Hudson, Margy Sullivan, Nancy Shaw and myself. Tom and Margy made it down in good time the morning of the swim driving down in Tom’s new plaything, the ‘Kracken’, while Nancy and I spent the a glorious weekend with friends in a nearby village before making our way over to Exmouth for the big race on the Sunday morning.

After registering and being covered in the obligatory black marker war paint on our shoulders, we received the race instructions and were teamed up with our kayakers. Due to shifting sandbanks, for the first time in the swim’s history a different course had to be swum. The new route began further up into the mouth of the river, as close to the docks and Mamhead Slipway as possible, then using the new Swash Way channel to get swimmers and support vessels through Pole Sands and out to open sea where we swam a circuit before rounding a newly positioned turn buoy and back to the start position.

Alas, the swim did not involve rounding the actual Fairway Buoy after which it is named, however on reflection this was probably a good idea - in last year’s swim some parts were so shallow that some of us actually even had to get up and run to make progress!

The day held only a gentle breeze and the seas remained calm for most parts. The water temperature was about 13C (55.4F) and was fairly consistent throughout the swim. This was welcomed by Margy, Nancy and myself, as it was a little warmer than the chilly 11-12 C (52-54F) that we experienced in last year. On the other hand, Tom ‘Ice Man’ Hudson, having already spent numerous weekends down at Dover harbour since May, was probably in danger of overheating in the tropical temperature.

The gun went off at 9.45am and 33 swimmers took to the water. In her first major race as Nancy Shaw, my new bride swam as beautifully as always (I would say that wouldn’t I!) and came in 3rd overall and 2nd female in the time of 1:38:35, behind winner Caroline Ball of Kelly College. Having been as far up as 7th place halfway through the swim, I managed to get swamped by fitter swimmers in the second half, finishing equal 10th overall and 6th male in 1:44:17.

Tom Hudson had a sprint finish among his pack of swimmers to beat them to the post, finishing 13th overall and 8th male in 1:46:33, and Margy Sullivan was 11th female and 29th overall in a time of 2:10:50. On checking our second half times, ‘Pocket Rocket’ Margy had actually negative split her race and was the fastest of us all from the turn-boat to the finishing line. Some say that the current might have picked up in the later stage of the race, but hey, you can’t argue with the timekeeper!

It was great to see that all 33 swimmers completed a hard swum race, following which we made our way to the presentations at the local Rugby club, where we feverishly devoured the well-deserved buffet that was put on for us.

On behalf of the four of us, I would like to thank the Exmouth Swimming and Life Saving Society for a well-organised event and for making us feel welcome during and after the swim. A good hard and rewarding endurance swim in cold water, and a great way to start the summer.

Postscript: However the events of the day were not over when we got out of the water. One of us (Tom) had accidentally locked his keys in the boot of his car while getting changed after the race. With the car alarm going off every 30 seconds and to the bemusement of passers-by, Tom, myself and the AA man spent the rest of the morning trying to break into the vehicle. Meanwhile, Nance and Margy, no doubt realising that our efforts were in vain, spent the time chatting away about SLSC and other important matters as only they know how. Despite all our efforts, including what can only be described as the spare-key-mobile-phone-remote-unlocking-trick (it’s a long story…), this automobile, with the latest mod-cons in security, was not going to surrender to its master. No, we could not ‘Release the Kracken this time. Leaving the car in Exmouth, Ice Man, the Pocket Rocket and Mr & Mrs Shaw all drove home to London together in the other car (at a pace somewhat slower than Tom was expecting to get home…)

Jason Shaw