Years ago, open-water swimming races carried big prize. Winning one of the cross-Channel races Billy Butlin sponsored in the 1950s, or the popular race down the Seine in France, could earn you enough money to buy a nice house.
Of course, the 427 swimmers gathered on the banks of the Arun were there for glory, not cash. A good job, as glory – plus a glorious 3.8-km swim downriver to Shoreham – was all that was on offer.
The Arun swim is now a big event in open-water swimming, and people come from all over southern England to take part. This year a strong group of Chichester swimmers entered, among them Chichester Cormorants swimmers who took two age-category wins and a third place.
A dreary, drizzly morning cleared up in time for the race, which helped create the usual happy atmosphere at this event. Once the hooter went the racing got serious. The start of an open-water race is like a washing machine getting going, with arms and legs churning the water and a lot of swimmers packed into a small area. Things soon settled down for a long slog down-river.
Almost 4 km of murky river water later, the first Cormorant up the finish ramp was Francesca Haywood in 55.38. Overall she was 36th, and third junior girl. This is arguably the strongest age group, as for the last few years the Arun race has been won by a swimmer from it.
Next Chichester swimmer over the line was Jane West of Cormorants, who was 43rd in 56.10. West has found herself in the super-veterans age group, which she won hands down. Not far behind her, Oscar Warrington came home first among the junior boys after a beautifully paced swim.
In all it was a strong show from Chichester swimmers, with most finishing inside an hour and in the top 20 per cent of the field.
The next big race on the open-water calendar is the south-east region championships at Chichester Watersports this Saturday.
Chichester swimmer results: Francesca Haywood, Cormorants, 36th (55.38); Jane West, Cormorants, 43rd (56.10); Ed Ball, Cormorants, 47th (56.52); Oscar Warrington, Cormorants, 58.13; David Mahony, unaffiliated, 72nd (1.00.04; Steve Peters, Sudeste, 73rd (10.01.26); Lisa Maynard, Cormorants, 74th (1.03.14); Kim Pritchard, Cormorants, 75th (1.03.16); Ben Short, Chichester Tri, 76th (1.04.37); James Cairns, unaffiliated, 77th 1.08.56; Phil Allen, unaffiliated, 1.10.33; Debbie Bell, JLP Racing Club, 79th 1.12.27; Trycha Darling, Chichester Tri, 80th (1.13.39); Liz Pillans, Chichester Tri, 85th.