A sea of paddlers on Day 2 of the Plymouth Ecover Blue Mile!
Hundreds of swimmers and paddlers came together in a mass celebration of the sea at the 2014 Ecover Blue Mile in Plymouth on 13-14 September.
The event, in support of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), is part of Plymouth’s Ocean City Festival which runs from 8-28 September.
If Day 1 was all about the swimmers, then Sunday was the Day of the Paddlers, with kayak and stand up paddleboarders doing battle in a series of races on the water, while others had a go at taster sessions for a £3 donation to MCS.
Well over 100 people also went kayaking on dry land on the ergo kayaks in the Ecover Blue Mile tented village on Plymouth’s historic Barbican waterfront.
For MCS, the event was a chance to talk to people about the risks to our seas, to advise on which fish species NOT to eat, and to sign people up for beach cleans including the Great British Beach Clean on 19-22 September.
Patrick Joel from MCS said: “It’s a great opportunity to meet people who access the water for leisure, which is important because they notice the state of the seas before anyone else. People were very willing to take away information and were keen to find out more about us and the work we do.”
The Day of the Paddlers saw people take part in kayak or SUP races or have a go in taster sessions using Fatyak Kayaks and Naish boards. After a series of sprints and a 1-mile race the overall winners were Alex Milden in the SUP event and, in a tandem kayak, Special Olympics competitor Stephen Dodd and his sister Paris. One of those competing in the SUP series was GB 470 sailor Sophie Weguelin, who is hoping to compete at the Rio Olympics.
The taster sessions proved popular with people of all ages and Go Canoeing instructor Dave Clare said some caught the bug straight away: “This is a great way to get people into the sport and we had one guy who said he loved the kayaking so much he was going to contact his local canoe club in Saltash. This is what these sessions are all about – bringing new people to the sport.”
Among those who tried both SUP and kayaking was Alison Charlesworth, who had a go alongside her daughter, Ellie: “It was great fun” was Alison’s verdict!
The action on the water got under way on Saturday morning with the first wave of swimmers – the ‘medium’ wave. The swimmers, all donning bright Aqua Sphere swim hats, made for a colourful sight as they headed out from the Mayflower Steps. For the second year running, the swim – a course to the Sound and back – was won by Plymouth teacher Jon Trudgett: “I loved every minute of it and it’s for a great cause,” said Jon.
The second wave – the ‘fast’ wave – featured a sizeable contingent of swimmers from Plymouth Leander, whose youngsters Freddy Clampett (2nd) and Myles Pillage (3rd) were pipped to the post by literally a couple of seconds by Hadden Page of Carn Brea & Helston Swimming Club (18:20). Winner of the women’s race was Shauna Lee from Plymouth Leander in a time of 19:38.
Also taking part in the swim were Ecover Blue Mile ambassador, BBC Springwatch presenter Maya Plass, and Tim Cresswell from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Three Hungry Boys TV programme.
Next up was the Team Challenge, won by Sport Environment, with Plymouth University a close second. The event sees three team members each tackling half a mile of one of the disciplines – swim, SUP and kayak.
The first day’s action was rounded off by the aquatriathlon, where competitors complete half a mile in all three of the disciplines. Exeter University masters student Alex Dawson won the event in 47:42 and the winner of the women’s race was Janie Buckley.
Alex said: “That’s the first time I’ve done that and the conditions were tough because of the head wind. But it was great fun and I’d love to do it again.”
For Janie, who did the Ecover Blue Mile swim a couple of years ago, the sea is very special: “I didn’t see the ocean until I was 16 because I grew up in West Virginia so it’s a great place for me. I really enjoyed doing the aquatri because the course takes you to where you wouldn’t normally go and you see bits of the coast you wouldn’t otherwise get to see.”
Event organiser Conrad Humphreys said: “We had a lovely mixture of experienced swimmers and paddlers and others who were trying out water sports for the first time. We’d like to thank all of them because they were the stars of the show.”