Exmouth Fairway Buoy - 9 seconds too slow

By Stuart Palmer

On a quiet weekend in June, with the sea remaining perilously cold, myself and Tom Hudson took part in the 50th Exmouth Fairway Buoy Swim.

With the swim being on the Sunday, we decided to warm up on the Saturday with a swim round Burgh Island. We were joined by a handful of swimmers from Brighton Swimming Club who led us through some pretty tight nooks and crannies in the submerged rocks.

The swim was lovely. The cliffs around the back of the island are vertical and wild showing a dramatic side to the island which you cannot see by foot. With the sea remaining pretty cold, there was an added sense of wild and we didn’t waste any time.

After a chilly sandwich in the Pilchard Inn, we were refreshed, acclimatised and ready for the Fairway Buoy swim.

Now I must confess that a couple of weeks prior to the swim I had called the organiser Barry Westaway and asked to be excluded from the swim on account of the unusually low sea temperature and my lack of cold water preparation. Barry’s response didn’t actually include the word pansy, but lets just say that I was politely persuaded to persevere with the swim.

So when Sunday arrived I was feeling pretty apprehensive about the sea temperature. In the excellently organised swimmers’ briefing, I noted gladly that there were 6 safety ribs between 30 swimmers.

The swim itself is a very clever concept which uses both the outgoing and incoming tides to slingshot you around the marker bouys and back to shore. The swim starts and ends in the fast moving water of the estuary channel which means you are travelling much faster than you could normally. Was it just me thinking “check out how good I am”?

Under starters ordersFollowing the informal BLDSA style starter’s orders, we were off. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about sea temperature. It was very bearable and almost pleasant at times. I felt great in the water and enjoyed swimming out through the channel.

Once in my stride I passed a few swimmers and started to enjoy myself. At the point where the channel met the sea there was considerable swell which was great fun. My canoeist was a great guide and kept me on track for the markers. As is always the case, my competitive edge came out and I found myself trying to edge past a couple of the more stubborn swimmers. There they go, Stu -1, The World - 0.

After the final buoy I noticed a bit of tiredness. The way back was pretty tough due to my over-excitement earlier on in the race. I was passed by those same stubborn swimmers and had to give everything I had to swim at a respectable pace.

Pipped to the postOn nearing the line I was feeling pretty relived and pleased that I had completed the swim. It was then I noticed another pink-hatted swimmer drawing along side me. Surely I wouldn’t loose another place at this late stage? Yet there he was. Tom just slipped past me and pipped me to the post. I can’t print exactly what I was thinking, but thankfully I got over it pretty quickly. The results show that Tom beat me by 9 seconds. Its a good job I wasn’t racing!

Once out of the water I was greeted by a beaming Barry who duly told me that he had told me so. I gathered from the other swimmers that they had enjoyed it just as much as I had.

The swim was impeccably organised and a really fun and inclusive event. I was very impressed by the passion and dedication of the organisers and volunteers and urge others to take part in future swims.