Exmouth Fairway Buoy 2009

Four go for a Westcountry Paddle

Sunday 7th June was the date for the annual Exmouth Fairway Buoy swim. Being the first sea swim of the year in the British Long Distance Swimming Association calander, Exmouth is considered a gruelling test.

The usual course is 5 miles (8km) starting in the warmer waters of the estuary and heading out into the open sea where the surf is up and the temperature down. The goal is to round the “buoy” before the tide turns and then sprint back to warmer waters and the comforting sight of Exmouth’s white stuccoed esplanade and the orange finishing buoy.

The field is restricted to 40 hardy ‘lunatics’ and the SLSC had 4 entrants this year. It’s a long drive to Exmouth so we were all up early to get there in time for the 10.30am de-brief. The weather forecast wasn’t good and we were expecting a challenging swim. A glance at the list of participants confirmed there was plenty of solid competition - a roll call of Channel swimmers and regular open water “seeds”.

The good news was that to our surprise, the sun was shining in Exmouth and although the wind was up a bit, conditions looked good.

But the organisers were nervous and telling tales of 6 to 8 feet waves out past the sand banks. We felt encouraged by this news - nothing better than a bit of ‘chop’ to sort the men out from the boys ! Vasseline was applied (under the arms in case you were wondering!) and goggles in place. But it wasn’t to be. The health and safety mafia stepped in and insisted the course was too dangerous and had to be changed. So a 30 minute delay followed and puzzled, we sat on the beach enjoying the sunshine on the self proclaimed “English Riviera”.

In the meantime, the buoy was moved further inshore and we were then informed that the course would now be reduced to 2.5 miles. Feeling a bit short changed after such a long drive, we were now raring to get going. Brad Andersen had taken particular pains to “carb load” the previous night, witnesses marvelling at the numbers of potatoes which were put to the sword. On the starter gun, Brad ‘smoked it’ off the beach disappearing in a haze of sea spray to lead the peloton of flaling arms and legs up the estuary away from the town. Brad was in fact the first swimmer to reach the turn buoy but like a Bugatti Veyron (which can be driven for 12.5 minutes at top speed before it runs out of fuel) Brad clearly didn’t have enough potatoes in the tank and was caught by the chasing pack on the homeward stretch.

The baton was taken up by Ben Pennington and Giles Meyer who were both vying with Caroline Ball (a multiple winner of Exmouth and many other open water events). Ben has trained hard this year and is in his best form for some time. It was a titanic effort, Ben out-swimming Caroline who came 3rd but being pipped to the winners podium by seconds by another male swimmer. Giles wasn’t far behind.

So a great effort all round (see results below). The Exmouth swimming secretary made up for the shortened race by considerably lengthening his address at the presentation. Brad was gutted that there was no silver wear for being 1st to the buoy but consoled himself with a pint of Fosters and some further carb loading.

It’s the third time we have had a SLSC swimmer take 2nd place at Exmouth so we’ll be back - and it’s getting personal!

Tom Hudson

Exmouth Fairway Buoy - 2.5 miles “rough” weather course - SLSC Entrants Results:

Ben Pennington - 2nd Man, 2nd overall - 55.21 mins

Giles Meyer - 4th Man, 5th overall - 56.40 mins

Brad Andersen - 6th Man, 7th overall- 59.06 mins

Tom Hudson - 10th Man, 13th overall - 62.03 mins