Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dawny To Cockatoo Island Swim

I don't usually bother with organised swimming. It can get a bit competitive and 'blokey'. I was a member of a winter swimming club way back in the mid-1980s, but that didn't last long; I wasn't particularly interested in races and competitions. So, since then, I've avoided the various open water swims that occur from Spring to Autumn around Sydney and N.S.W..

Last year, however, I turned up to swim my lengths at Balmain's 'Dawn Fraser Baths'  on the morning they held the annual 'Dawny Challenge'. It was interesting to see the people who were taking part in the event. Apart from a couple of groups of grim-faced, must-win competitors, the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly with all ages and sizes prepared to have a splash about and a good time. It looked like fun.

I thought I might give this swim a go, so this year I decided to enter. I got the date wrong (of course), and yesterday, thinking I had eight days to go, I did twenty laps in the baths. I realised my mistake when I got out of the water and read the sign. So, today, during the swim itself, I felt a bit on the tired side.

The 'Dawny To Cockatoo Island Challenge" is an annual swim organised by Balmain Water Polo Club . There are two events: The Challenge, which is 2.5 kilometres around the island, and the Swim, which is 1.1 kilometres to the island and back. I registered for the shorter swim, figuring that, at my swimming pace, I wouldn't complete the longer course in the time allotted, if at all.

Looking Across to Cockatoo Island From The Baths

It was a beautiful morning, clear, sunny and warm. The water temperature in the Parramatta River was 19 degrees celsius. The water looked quite calm from the decking, but we were told that it was a bit choppy and there was a current running from west to east.

Just before the start of the swim

The start of the swim was delayed due to a rescheduling of the Harbour Ferries, but it was really pleasant just lazing around on the decking. When it was time to start, the swimmers set off in staggered waves, depending on which swim they were in. I set off swimming front crawl, so that I didn't kick anybody in the crowded water, but, by the time we were half way across, I was pretty much on my own and could revert to my lazy breaststroke. I found myself keeping pace with a few stragglers behind a large group of frontrunners but ahead of another large group of swimmers. A perfect position.

Swimmers returning from the swim around the island

After the swim, there was a BBQ breakfast for all participants. The sausage and egg rolls weren't of much interest to this vegetarian, but there was plenty of fresh fruit. It was great, just lazing on the decking around the pool, eating watermelon and mango.

After the Dawny to Cockatoo Challenge

Coda: Not content with my morning dip, I went over to Wylies Baths in the afternoon. It was a gorgeous  day: warm and sunny with a cooling sea breeze. I swam slowly through the cool, clear water. There was a cormorant in the pool, diving into the weed on the bottom, so I spent a bit of time underwater, watching. Then I sat in the sun watching the waves breaking on Wedding Cake Island. A perfect Sydney day.