Keen to be seen

Published on: 03 Apr 2014

As tens of thousands of swimmers brace themselves to take the plunge in open waters across the Lake District a keen to be seen appeal has been launched.

A new swim safe code spells out a hat, flag, float and boat message designed to make a splash.

Working with major event organisers, open water swim providers, commercial boat operators and Windermere Lake User Forum, the Lake District National Park has produced 10,000 leaflets spelling out how swimmers can protect themselves from boat collisions and serious harm.

Lakes ranger Sara Spicer said the initiative followed concern that increasing numbers of swimmers in Windermere, Ullswater, Coniston Water and Derwentwater were at risk unless they followed some simple but effective guidelines.

She explained: "A bright hat is number one priority, followed by a tow float, and if a white and blue Alpha flag-flying support boat or kayak is available, particularly for groups of swimmers, so much the better.

"If this advice is heeded, the safer those in the water will be. We are also encouraging people to swim in the quieter lakes and avoid the four main navigable lakes, which have many different users.

"Great North Swim, which sees 10,000 competitors in Windermere, the British Long Distance Swimming Association, boat companies, marinas, swimming providers and lake users from across the national park are all giving invaluable support."

South Lakeland District Council lake wardens will be giving out tow floats to the swimmers they come across when they are out on patrol. These will also be available to buy for £19.95 at Ferry Nab.

GoLakes have funded 500 bright yellow and pink hats which will be given to difficult to see swimmers on navigable lakes. Major event organisers will also be publicising the swim safe campaign.

"Solo swimmers are particularly hard to see," added Sara. "It's easy to forget that boats, particularly larger vessels, take time to change their course or stop if they need to avoid someone in the water."

"It is also important to remind boat users that there may be swimmers in the water who may be difficult to see."

Chillswim, attracting 700 international competitors to Windermere in February and 500 to Coniston in September, along with year-round training sessions and guided swims, strongly supports the code.

Founder Colin Hill said: "The Lake District is the greatest place on the planet for open water swimming.  However, as open water becomes more popular, swimmers need to be aware of how to swim both safety and responsibly to avoid unnecessary incidents and accidents. 

"This is especially true in the busier lakes, where the water is shared with ferries, hire boats, fishermen and other lake users.   The swim safe code sets out really important safety messages, which all lake users should be aware of."

Nigel Wilkinson, managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises, which carries in excess of 1.25 million passengers a year, said: "We are genuinely concerned about the consequences of a collision on Windermere involving a swimmer.
"The swim safe code is an excellent initiative to help mitigate that risk".

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