Henley Swim Classic 2013: Race Report

I have been a delinquent getting my race report done for the Henley Classic Swim that I took part in on the 30th of June 2013.


(above) Walking to start

This is by far my favourite swimming event on the calendar. Last year was cancelled because the Thames was in flood this year the conditions were perfect. Mid-summer was acting the part with days before in the twenties, so the water was perfect, a balmy 17C. Not quite high enough to bar wetsuits but up there.


(above) Charlie (left) and me ready to go do the thing in the water

Event Background

I have done this race three times now. I started taking part in what has now become a huge event back in the days when it was run out of the Upper Thames Rowing Club. At that time it was you and a few other weirdo’s standing around in black neoprene suits ready to go swimming in the dead of night. Now the affair is a large well oiled machine that sadly is not quite as charming as before, but certainly just as spell-bounding.

Why stand around in the dark? You and your fellow competitors head down the river Thames at ~4:10am following some guy carrying a burning torch into the dark to the race start. Start kicks off at 4:30 am just as the sun is reddening the morning skies. It is breath taking, especially since if you are lucky enough to have a fog bank lying on the water, giving you a breathtaking vista to compete in.

This Year

The normal plan from me, not a ‘A’ race so didn’t taper (in fact did 100km cycle that morning), didn’t plan too much and got a hour and a half sleep the night before (plus I don’t characterise myself a true swimmer). The lack of sleep was a combination of my wife Susan having one her own events the night before (we love going to watch her), and the fact registration opens at 2:00 am. We elected to get to Henley-on-Thames for 2:45 am. But I think I got us all up a bit early. Charlie and his friend who stayed over night in tents told me that as a camper you get woken from about 2:00 am as cars begin to arrive (I said the event is really big now). You may want to remember that.

The Waves

A new feature for this year was the introduction of an Elite wave for hard-core swimmers. I opted for the Open Wave and not the Performance Wave which I believed would have very strong swimmers in it. As a tri-athlete I am a fair to strong swimmer normally heading up most swims, but with true swimmers my performance fades!

My Race

The waves were unleashed one-by-one after a modest safety talk. Apart from a very solid kick on the face, my start was the normal slow lazy start that characterises my racing. Soon the field had thinned I started to spot the Green swimming caps of the Performance wave that had started 5 minutes before my wave. Obviously there were different degrees of what’s performance. At any rate after a non-eventful jog to the end going past a few green capped sorts, but glad it’s over feeling I pulled in at 40/185 place overall on the Men’s Open Wave (includes performance), for a time of 36’31. A surprise for a none-swimmer like me! I normally get 2km on 32′ during pool based training so I was clearly mucking about a bit though, not swimming in a straight line I guess, since the wetsuit should add a bit of speed.

Shout outs

I can’t finish this report without several shout outs. One for the Henley Swim team, their events continue to grow. They get bigger, and better, and I can’t recommend them enough. Plus the £500 prize money for the winning man & woman each was really nice to see. We like them. Do the Henley Swim next year or another event if you can! (http://www.henleyswim.com)

The other has to go out to my friend Charlie. He signed up for the event at short notice on my recommendation. He had been in the water only one or twice this year, and had only received his wetsuit the days before the race. A man after my own heart indeed! He got in there and swam the distance while having a good time – we like that!

And finally but not least, my supporters, I can’t take you guys anywhere! x


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