As there is now only just over 6 weeks until the first Henley Swim event of 2017 we caught up with founders Tom Kean & Jeremy Laming to find out a little more about their unique open-water events...
Why did you want to start the Henley Swim?
Tom: When Jeremy and myself coincidentally retired from rowing at the same time, he wanted someone to swim with outdoors as he’d begun to compete at triathlons (he eventually won his age group at London no less!). Having both swam at Henley many times, it was an obvious if not slightly naughty-feeling adventure we couldn’t resist. We knew that at 4 in the morning we were less likely to get told off and run over by some jet-lagged American eight.
What is it about open water swimming that you enjoy?
Tom: The freedom of space and lack of chlorine. I’ve always found there is a big difference to the rhythm of swimming outdoors. Pool swimming “seems” harder as you never quite seem to get into that endorphin state with all the turns and other interruptions. Outdoors you can settle in and build. And if you are going well you can just keep building and really enjoy the moment. Jeremy: You can really concentrate on your stroke too and try different things. There are also more skills to think about and work on, and the conditions are never the same from one day to the next.
What Henley Swim events are available for people to enter?
J: We really try and make all our events contrasting to help them stand out from the crowd. We always say that the Classic is the gnarly one, and appeals most to those who like something a little different. The reaction we get is either hugely enthusiastic or complete horror; a 2am start is clearly not for everyone. Then closest we dare to move to a mainstream event is the Henley Mile – this is a real jamboree of swimming with family categories, various distances and intriguing entry permutations, like the Suits V Skins. T: Then we have the Club to Pub, which if we are honest was a bit of an experiment in formatting. We always try to run events that we fancy doing ourselves and this is definitely one of those. It’s a Saturday evening start, involves a tricky course and finishes at a pub, with a disco and really naughty food. Our finishers medal is quickly becoming a collector’s item as it doubles up as a bottle opener – oh yes you get your own limited edition bottle of Brakspear beer too! Finally but no doubt the toughest of all is the Thames Marathon. Not just your run of the mill 10K you understand – oh no this is much more. 14K of fantastic scenery, with weirs and locks to negotiate and a format that will bring you together with your fellow swimmers. It’s one of the swimming world’s ultimate tests of endurance that is surprisingly do-able as it’s with the stream
Which of the Henley events is your favourite?T: I have to say it’s still the original Classic. I love mid-summer and the long hours of daylight, which taps into my pagan tendencies. I’m also able to satisfy my childish whims and make sure we have such things as (very large) lasers to put on a bit of a light show for the swimmers who arrive in the dark. J: I on the other hand marginally prefers the Thames Marathon as it appeals to my grinding sense of endurance developed over a lifetime of sports.
How do you enter the Henley Swim?
T: We now use an on-line system that is the only way to cope with such large numbers – see http://henleyswim.com/entry/
Who can enter the Henley Swim?
T: Anyone from age 8 to 80….in fact I’m not sure why I said 80. Anyone sensible over the age of 8 can enjoy the fun.
Why do you think someone should start open water swimming?
T: As with a lot of things in life, if you push the boundaries and get outside your comfort zone you tend to find life a bit more satisfying. Take the plunge and you might just get hooked. But it’s like most sports – it’s all about the people.
What equipment/swimwear do you need to open water swim?
J: It depends how hardy you are. A swimming costume, goggles and a brightly coloured hat are the minimum you need – but if you want to be a bit warmer you can invest in a wetsuit, which are fab these days. They’re not like surfing wetsuits – they are much more supple and specifically designed for swimming. They’ll keep you warm, make you buoyant and as a result you’ll probably go a bit faster.
What tips would you give to someone who has never done an open water swim before?
J: There is a wealth of really good information on the internet, or you could join one of many new open water swimming clubs that are springing up all over the place. Finally, you could do a lot worse than subscribe to Outdoor Swimmer magazine which is exactly what you need if you want the inside line on things. But it all boils down to just having a go and mentally re-setting what you think is normal.
What events would you recommend to different levels of swimmers?
The Classic – tougher types who are a bit more confident The Mile – literally anyone, especially someone who fancies giving it a go The Club to Pub – anyone over 18 who likes swimming, beer, loud music and naughty food – so that’s everyone really The Thames Marathon – solid swimmers, but it’s surprisingly doable with a bit of focus