Open Water Swimming

For many club members, Open Water Swimming (OWS) is the highlight of our training calendar. We are very lucky to have access to the amazing facilities at the Otley Sailing Club, which is the same venue as used by the British elite squad and athletes such as Jonny & Alistair Brownlee.

Our OWS season typically runs from mid-May to mid-September and we hold sessions from 19:00-20:00 on Tuesdays & 8:00-9:00 on Saturdays. Exact dates are determined by the water temperature (min 12 deg) and daylight hours.

The information below should answer any questions that you may have about open water swimming with LBT. It includes everything you need to know to get the maximum benefit and enjoyment from each and every session.

Key Information

  • Novice & experienced swimmers welcome.
  • Advanced booking only.
  • Safety briefing before each session.
  • Safety kayaks, rescue rafts and bank spotters on duty at all times.
  • Wetsuits required, unless water temperature exceeds 16 degrees and agreed by the Session Leader. See more info below
  • ‘Swimmers Only’ section of the lake.
  • You must be able to swim 450m without stopping.
    There is nothing to get hold of and you can’t put your feet down!
  • The sessions are run by volunteers from the club, please do your share.
  • Here’s the answers to some frequently asked questions.

These notes were last updated on 31st May 2024, there may have been a few changes since then. If you have any questions please email

The OWS Session Team

Our OWS sessions are run by volunteers and can only go ahead if we have sufficient volunteers available. Equipment and training will be provided. There are 4 Key Roles, some of which require multiple volunteers:

Session Leader x1
In overall charge of the session. They will decide if the session goes ahead and ensure the safety and wellbeing of all those involved.
Gatekeeper x1
Based at the entrance gate to ensure only those who have booked a place are given access to the site. 10 mins before the session starts the gatekeeper can make their way to the lake and join the swim if they wish.
Bank Spotters, x2
Monitor the activity of swimmers and kayakers to ensure their safety and work with the Session Lead to deliver the session. Where possible Bank Spotters should come equipped to undertake the role of Safety Kayaker, if necessary.
Safety Kayakers, x3 min
Monitor the activities of swimmers during the session to ensure their safety and provide assistance to any swimmers in difficulty. It will be possible to kayak for half a session and swim for the other half, for free.

The Team as a whole will set up the session before the swimmers arrive and then ensure that the site is left clean & tidy at the end of the session and all equipment has been appropriately secured.

More details of the OWS Roles & Responsibilities can be found here.

Volunteer Rewards

To thank our volunteers for taking on these roles and associated responsibilities we offer them a credit for a free swim (which can be put towards any other LBT session) plus a further credit to cover out of pocket expenses. For more information on how you can volunteer please email

OWS Sessions

Before Attending

Booking will close at 4pm for the evening swims and at 10pm the night before for the morning swims. This is to allow time for the volunteer team and coaches to get everything prepared for the session. Please check the booking page for details.

If we are unable to run the session due to insufficient volunteers, weather etc. a post will be made on the club Facebook page. Please check this prior to attending the session. Refunds will only be given if the session is cancelled by LBT.

What to Bring

  • LBT Membership Card: Printed or digital. You can download & print a copy of your card from the membership website.  NO CARD = NO ACCESS
  • Wetsuit: You should always bring your wetsuit. They are mandatory unless the water temperature exceeds 16 degrees, when their use is optional. Over 24 degrees and the use of wetsuits will not be allowed.
    Everyone must wear a wetsuit for their first swim at the lake. This is to ensure that our volunteer team is comfortable that you are competent in open water. The Session Lead will have the final decision on whether wetsuits are compulsory for an individual or possibly the entire session.
  • Swim Hat: You must wear an appropriately coloured swim hat with your membership number written clearly on both sides. This is an important part of our safety procedures NO NUMBERED HAT = NO SWIM. We use the following colours to identify swimmers
    • White – Novice
    • Yellow – Experienced
    • Green – First Aider
    • Blue – Youth
  • You can wear a swim hat from a previous event provided they are of a single suitable colour and your membership number is clearly visible.
  • Goggles
  • Optional items: neoprene gloves and/or boots, earplugs, 2nd hat layer, tow float etc. The slipway is rough concrete so some members bring flip-flops or old shoes.
  • Towel & warm clothes: We have no indoor facilities for when the weather is inclement. In cold weather a flask of post-swim hot chocolate can be amazing.

Changing will be outside on either side of the track at the Sailing Club. Please make sure that your pile of kit/bike etc is clearly marked with your name. Toilet facilities are available clubhouse.

Getting There

The Sailing Club is about 1 mile from the main Otley bridge, down a single lane concrete track. Only para-athletes and those involved in running the session are allowed to drive all the way there due to limited parking.

Many members cycle along the track since the alternative is to walk, or run. If cycling YOU MUST wear a cycling helmet. If you don’t have a helmet the Gatekeeper will not allow you access with your bike.

There are a number of car parks in Otley and many members use the one on North Parade (LS21 1BA), which is free after 17:30. Many actually bring their bikes and just cycle from there!

The full address for the Otley Sailing Club is Bridge End Quarry, Otley, LS21 2SU but a better address for the start of the track is Parkgate Café, 1 Bridge Avenue, Otley, LS21 2AA.

The OWS Session

click to enlarge image

At the Entrance Gate

  1. Our Gatekeeper will open the gate at the start of the track 30 minutes before the session is due to start.
  2. Show them your LBT Membership Card and coloured & numbered swim hat.
  3. They will then let you through the gate. Remember you must wear a helmet if cycling to the lake.
  4. If you arrive late the Gatekeeper may have locked the gate and joined the swim. You can use the LBT combination padlock to open (and then secure) the gate and make your way to the lake. You MUST report to the Session Lead when you arrive at the Sailing Club.

Before the Swim

  1. On your arrival at the Sailing Club, locate an available spot and get changed & ready to swim. You may wish to ask one of the volunteers about the water temperature before deciding whether or not to pull on your wetsuit.
  2. Make your way to the slipway for the session briefing.
  3. The Session Leader will make a note of your name as you enter the lake. You can either walk in or dive off the jetty, if agreed by the Session Leader.
  4. Whilst you are acclimatising to the water please move to the left of the slipway as you enter the water.

Novice open water swimmers and those new to this venue must identify themselves to the Session Leader prior to entering the water. Please allow the more experienced swimmers to enter the water first.

The Swim

The sessions last 1 hour. The defined swim route is a large triangle, round 3 small buoys, and one circuit is about 450m, depending on your sighting skills. Novice swimmers might do 1 or 2 laps and the more experience ones may go 7 or even 8. Sometimes we swim round clockwise and other times anti-clockwise.

The swim all takes place in front of the clubhouse in an area separated from the rest of the lake by rope lines with floats. There will be at least 3 safety kayaks or rescue rafts on the water and 2 or more bank spotters watching from the shore. They will be paying particular attention to the novice swimmers in the white swim hats.

There’s plenty of opportunity to acclimatise before deciding to set off on a lap and also to practice your OWS skills, such as sighting, drafting, cornering and swim starts. We often have swim leaders that will take small groups of novice swimmers round the route and show them some basic techniques. If the water temperature permits then you can start the session in your wetsuit but might decide to do a lap or two without it.

If you require assistance whilst swimming:
  • Try to remain calm.
  • Roll on to your back and raise one of your arms.
  • When approached by a kayaker, listen to their instructions.
  • DO NOT grab the kayak and try to climb on.
  • The kayaker will assist you to shore.
  • Ensure you notify the Session Leader of your details prior to leaving the Sailing Club.

As the session nears the end there will be a point when there’s insufficient time to complete another lap. The safety kayakers will ask the remaining swimmers to start making their way out of the water rather than going round again.

After the Swim

  1. You must exit the water, via the slipway, prior to the end of the session.
  2. The Session Leader will note your name as you exit.
  3. Get changed and collect all your gear.
  4. Make your way back along the track (with your cycle helmet on) to Otley and home. Be aware that there may be vehicles on the track with sailors coming down to use the lake.
  5. The entrance gate needs to be secured to eliminate the risk of trespassers but also allow access for valid lake users. Therefore, during the session the gate will be secured via a padlock with a combination. The code will be provided in your booking confirmation.

Other lake users must still be able to get access by unlocking their padlock on the main chain. If in doubt, wait for someone who knows what to do. DO NOT climb over the gate, this will jeopardise our future access to the Sailing Club.

Water Quality

Whilst the water is tested prior to starting open water swimming and during the season everyone who swims should be aware of waterborne diseases, such as Weil’s disease and Cryptosporidium. If you become unwell after swimming contact your doctor, explain to them you have been open water swimming; and inform the club.

Some Rules

Respect the Volunteers and the Sailing Club

  • The Session Leader’s on the day decisions are final, regardless of the notes above. Any issues can be passed to the Committee after the session, for inclusion in a review of future procedures.
  • The sessions are run by volunteers, please treat them with respect and consider volunteering yourself.
  • There may be members of Otley Sailing Club on site whilst we are there, please remember that your actions will be viewed as representative of all LBT members. For example don’t lean you bikes on any boats!


  • Club members only, booked in advance.
  • You must show your current membership card at the gate.
  • If cycling to & from the lake you must wear a cycle helmet.
  • You must wear an appropriately coloured swim hat with your membership number clearly written on both sides.
  • Wetsuits required, unless water temperature exceeds 16 degrees and agreed by the Session Leader.

Otley Sailing Club

Otley Sailing Club are a friendly family club and actively encourage sailing for all ages and abilities. They promote dinghy sailing in the West and North Yorkshire regions providing sailing, power and safety boat training from absolute beginners to the highest level.

Sailing Club Members can also use the lake for kayaking, canoeing, paddle-boarding and windsurfing. Please note that unauthorised swimming is not permitted.

For more information please visit their website.