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.
- Novice & experienced swimmers welcome.
- Club members only, booked in advance.
- Safety briefing before each session.
- Safety kayaks, rescue rafts and bank spotters on duty at all times.
- Wetsuits required, unless water temperature exceeds 20 degrees.
- ‘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 1st May 2022, there may have been a few changes since then. If you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Based at the entrance gate for the entire session 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.
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.
To thank our volunteers for taking on these roles and associated responsibilities we offer them a free swim (or credit towards another LBT session of their choice) and a small cash reward. For more information on how you can volunteer please email email@example.com
Booking will close three hours ahead of the session to allow time to prepare the attendee lists. 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 be given if the session is cancelled by LBT.
What to Bring
- LBT Membership Card: Physical, printed or digital. If you haven’t yet received your card you can download & print a copy from the membership website. NO CARD = NO ACCESS
- Wetsuit: Mandatory unless the water temperature exceeds 20 degrees, when their use is optional. Over 24 degrees and the use of wetsuits will not be allowed.
- 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.
- 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 at specific numbered positions on either side of the road at the Sailing Club. You must leave all your equipment, including bikes at your designated position. We can only use Otley Sailing Club clubhouse in an emergency, as a result there are no toilet facilities currently available.
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 OWS Session
click to enlarge image
At the Entrance Gate
- Our Gatekeeper will open the gate at the start of the track 30 minutes before the session is due to start.
- Show them your LBT Membership Card and coloured & numbered swim hat.
- They will then allocate you a changing spot peg number and let you through the gate. Remember you must wear a helmet if cycling to the lake.
- If you arrive late the Gatekeeper may have locked the gate and joined the swim. You can use the LBT combination lock 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. More information about using the combination lock.
Before the Swim
- On your arrival at the Sailing Club, locate your peg 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.
- Make your way to the slipway when called by the Session Leader.
- They will make a note of your peg & swim hat numbers as you enter the lake. You can either walk in or dive off the jetty, if agreed by the Session Leader.
- 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 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
- You must exit the water, via the slipway, prior to the end of the session.
- The Session Leader will note your peg & hat numbers as you exit.
- You should vacate your allocated peg within 15 minutes of the end of the session.
- 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.
- 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 D-Lock with a combination. To exit:
- Use the combination (provided in your booking confirmation) to remove the end of the D-Lock, leaving the main ‘D’ part attached to the gate
- Release the chain and open the gate
- Once through, replace the chain and refit the end of the lock
Other lake users must still be able to get access by unlocking the 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. More information about using the combination lock.
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.
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!
It is critical that we follow Government and British Triathlon Federation guidance with regard to Covid-19, failure to do so potentially puts lives at risk, invalidates the club’s insurance and could result in the cancellation of future sessions. You must also follow any additional guidance set by LBT.
Do not attend if you are feeling unwell or ill. If you become unwell after the session or test positive for Covid-19 please notify the club’s Covid Officer as soon as possible firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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 20 degrees.
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.