Amy Mellor Swims Lake Windermere
On Saturday September 4th 2010 Amy Mellor took part in the British Long Distance Swimming Association race along the 10.5 mile length of Lake Windermere, the largest natural lake in England.
Amy Mellor Swims Lake Windermere
By Nicola Latty
On September 4th 2010 I had the privilege of joining teammate Amy Mellor as she took part in the British Long Distance Swimming Association (BLDSA) Lake Windermere race. The race start was at the south of the lake at Fell Foot and the finish was 10.5 miles later at Waterhead (near Ambleside) to the north.
What I was about to witness was a group of 30 swimmers take on one of the toughest swimming challenges in the UK swimming events calendar. I was fortunate enough to be in a boat and not in the cold lake. This year the water was a toasty 16C - last year it was 14C and those extra 2C really do make a difference. For those of us more used to pool water at 28C (or more) then 16C is pretty chilly. When swimming in 16C water most will decide to use a wetsuit. For this event the swimmer is only permitted one standard swim suit, one cap and a pair of goggles. All other equipment is banned.
The planned route was to take a path as straight as possible from Fell Foot to Rawlinson Nab, then past the ferry (without swimming into it), through the Lillies (near Bowness at about 6 miles) then past Windermere and across the Deeps, finishing at Waterhead.
Lake Windermere - The Planned Route
Each swimmer was required to have a rowing boat to accompany them with a crew of two or three persons. I joined Amy’s dad Kevin and brother Andy for a day of rowing where we would take care of Amy’s navigation and feeding needs.
Crew Members Andy and Kevin
We selected boat number 57 and loaded our supplies for the day: food, drinks, more food, more drinks, dry clothes (just in case), rain jackets, waterproof trousers... Amy was aiming for 5 hours but we knew we would be alright even if it took her a week.
Boat Number 57
The swimmers entered the water in front of a TV camera and the safety boat. I had instructed Amy to smile for the camera but suspect the look on her face as she entered the water wasn’t a smile.
The swim started at 9:15am and the swimmers swam to meet the boat crews who were waiting about 200m north of the swimming start. I was first to row. We dodged the other boats, both moving and stationary, to locate ourselves alongside Amy. After about an hour we stopped and threw a gel pack (food - but not very appetising) to Amy. By this point she had swum just over 2 miles. After the first feed we resumed a pattern of providing Amy with food and drink every 30 to 40 minutes. Drink bottles with string attached made our job easier as Amy was not permitted to touch the boat during the swim as this would result in disqualification.
Amy - Before the Swim
We had a crew change after the first hour as Kevin took over rowing and I moved to the front of the boat. Thankfully we executed this without anyone falling in or the boat tipping over. Andy took over rowing after another hour and negotiated the path through the islands near Bowness. We continued to rotate the rowing duty and take it in turns to feed Amy.
Two Miles Done and Eight and a Half to Go
As we passed the ferry (roughly midway through the swim) we asked Amy to sprint so that we would not have to stop to let the ferry cross the lake. With a five hour target we could not afford any unnecessary delays. Amy did as we asked after being really concerned as to why she would need to swim fast. We had to avoid jokes about sharks, piranhas, anacondas, crocodiles, etc. as it’s not funny to the swimmers (apparently).
Amy passed one of the other swimmers near the islands, at about the 6 mile point and never looked back. She did, however, challenge our navigation skills. During our briefing by the race organisers we were told that the swimmer was to follow the boat and not the other way around. We were also told that our swimmer would, at some time during the race, tell us that we were going the wrong way and would try to swim off in a different direction. Amy tried this and a short ‘discussion’ later we managed to get her to follow us once more. I will admit that it did look like we were heading towards the side of the lake but we were taking the required route to the west of the islands.
As we got into north of the lake, about 7 miles into the swim, the waves picked up considerably. This caused Amy to slow slightly but she was still catching the swimmer in front and was breaking away from the two following swimmers. The wind across the lake caused the water to be choppy and being such good weather there were a lot of boats on the lake and these were also making waves.
The final phase of the swim was to cross ‘The Deeps’ on the approach to Waterhead. We kept close to Amy to make sure other boats would stay well away. Each time a ferry went by we started to cheer for Amy and the ferry passengers joined in. Amy was oblivious to this extra support but we enjoyed it.
Once Amy knew she was in the final mile there was no stopping her. We approached the shore at Waterhead and there was a large group of spectators showing their support as the swimmers finished. Amy crossed the finish line (an imaginary line between to piers) in 5 hours 6 minutes 46 seconds. This placed Amy 9th overall and 5th woman. The last of the swimmers came in about 2 1/2 hours later.
We went by boat back to Fell Foot. This time the boat had a motor but it still took over an hour to make the journey. I was impressed with the way Amy coped with the swim. It really didn’t look hard. At no point did she look to be struggling, in fact she looked to be in total control the whole way. I was left wondering how 5 hours of swimming in cold water look so easy?
Congratulations to Amy on a fantastic achievement. Next year - Windermere two way - 21 miles.