Windermere in winter with Low Wood Bay Resort Hotel & Marina venue in foreground.
Start of women’s race in the Low Wood Bay Resort Hotel & Marina venue.
World champion Christof Wandratsch competing in the 1 km race in 2016.
“It is not possible.”
“It is incredibly dangerous.”
But the world’s hardiest of aquatic athletes are proving that ice swimming is possible and with proper training, acclimatization and preparation, swimming in the middle of winter in near-freezing water can be not only enjoyable, but also highly competitive. These hardened swimmers are flocking to northern England in order to show off their talents and highly-developed levels of acclimatization in the winter waters of Windermere. Low Wood Bay Resort Hotel & Marina plays the host to this annual winter swimming gala.
“Now an official International Winter Swimming Association World Cup event, the fifth Big Chill Swim takes place on December 10th and 11th by the hotel’s waterfront,” explains organiser Colin Hill. “No wetsuits are allowed.
Professional and amateur open water swimmers from Chile, USA, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Germany are jetting to the region to take part in one of the Lake District’s largest mass participation events.”
Races on the first day include the 450m endurance event and a series of multi-stroke sprints at distances ranging from 30m to 120m, before a series of team relays commence in the afternoon. The new 30m Ice Fly is a competitive butterfly race.
Day 2’s racing starts with a 240m race held in age group divisions and culminates in the 1 km British Championships, a challenge for experienced cold water swimmers bracing themselves for the longest race on the IWSA World Cup circuit.
Ben Berry from English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues says, “The Big Chill Swim here at Low Wood Bay is always very well supported locally and we’re looking forward to another great day’s racing in a truly wonderful setting. The relays are especially fun to see as they are a great team challenge and popular with those wanting to raise funds. Outdoor open water swimming, unheard of as a mainstream sport a few years ago, is now hugely popular both here in the Lake District and around the world.”
Chillswim director Colin Hill adds, “The event is already fully subscribed and we have again reached the maximum entry number of 1,000 competitors registered to take part in a full range of relays, sprints and endurance races. As well as the professional races, there will be the usual fun and games for the more recreational swimmers to raise funds for charity with novelty races and fancy dress. Low Wood Bay has a long history of encouraging visitors to enjoy the waters of Windermere, and our winter open water swimming gala is a thrilling way to do it in participation with swimmers of all ages and backgrounds.”
Supported by Northern Pontoon, each Big Chill Swim race is timed with the fastest on the clock per age group category going forward to collect their prizes and medals at a special ceremony and Barn Dance at Low Wood Bay in the evening. The hotel was also the venue for this year’s World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) awards, presented in partnership with Chillswim.
Christof Wandratsch, a nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year and one of the world’s most successful winter swimmers, will participate in the event. He is nominated along with race director Hill and the following individuals:
1. Roger Finch (South Africa)
2. Seti Afoa (Samoa)
3. Tomi Stefanovski (Macedonia)
4. Edoardo Stochino (Italy)
5. Ferry Weertman (Netherlands)
6. Nejib Belhedi (Tunisia)
7. Ger Kennedy (Ireland)
8. Alex Kostich (USA)
9. Masayuki Moriya (Japan)
10. Colin Hill (Great Britain)
11. Ingemar Patiño Macarine (Philippines)
12. Lewis Pugh (Great Britain)
13. Christof Wandratsch (Germany)
Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association