6am alarm on a Sunday morning was challenging and the weather looking grey and miserable didn.t help- well it was July!

IMG_2161The Triathlon paddling rescue crew met at Pitsford sailing club at 7ish. Athletes, marshalls and other important people with clipboards were milling around. We layered up with cags, hats and other suitable attire for a potentially chilly, windy paddle on the hostile looking reservoir. Steve briefed us- spread out around the course; keep an eye out for struggling swimmers; raise paddle if swimmer in difficulty; and generally steer those going off course. Horn blown and they were off. Women and over 50s first.(grrrr), then the men. It was a little choppy with slight wind but manageable. It was quite a sight seeing the swimmers with their coloured hats bobbing in and out of the water and a swarm of arms flapping. They looked like seals popping their head out of the sea. well sort of.. I have to say, it was a very impressive spectacle. The course suddenly looked a very long way. Most were swimming at a steady pace- well to be fair, faster than I have ever swam in a pool. The first fluorescent buoy look miles away..in fact it was 500m and total distance 1500m (gulp). Some of the swimmers struggled to keep in the right direction which gave us an opportunity to give them gentle encouragement and a steer ….oi, you with the red cap, swim right.! It was difficult to decide whether to keep cheering them and urging them on or be quiet to keep them focused. Not many needed a rest against our boats, and none needed rescuing. Two rescue boats were on the water and two stand-up paddlers at the back for safety.IMG_2167

Steve led the first wave of swimmers and Ted, the second. Difficult task for them trying to keep to course and steer. Only a few really struggled and some chatted saying that the swim was their weakest sport. Still, so very impressive. Lots of wobbly legs once out of the water but they managed to drag themselves up to their bikes; not all- some sprinted to their bikes.

IMG_2166For us, it was over and we exchanged experiences. all excited and enquiring about the next event. Bacon buns and coffee after was welcomed. It was a great way to spend a (grey, miserable) Sunday morning, albeit early. We all love to paddle, but to combine our thirst for the water with helping at a sporting event was perfect. The swimmers were safe and well on their way through the cycle part of the triathlon and we were on our way home- back to normal Sunday chores- the obligatory trip to the tip; give the washing machine a hammering; cut the grass etc etc.

Elizabeth Gibbons