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The Norfolk Broads Forum / Broads Authority Issues / Waveney swimming competition
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Posted By Discussion Topic: Waveney swimming competition

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mardler
Apr-01-2018 @ 11:09 AM                           Permalink
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Since its inception, the BA has, correctly, warned against swimming in the rivers and Broads.

Indeed, the 2018 issue of its Broadcaster publication has, on page 18, a list of safety items: number 7 simply says do not swim in the rivers and Broads.

It was with some astonishment then that this BA sanctioned and approved event was spotted. Some 200 people are expected!

Flying directly in the face of its own advice, this event will not just be a hazard to navigation it will be attended by the friends and families of the competitors plus a potentially large number of onlookers all of whom will immediately assume that it’s safe to swim in the rivers and broads.

It appears that public mooring areas are also to be taken over by the event.

A letter has been sent to the BA pointing out the dangers and I reproduce it below with permission.

The following was sent to Messrs Birtles and Packman.                  
“Dear Mr Birtles.

I note with some horror the announcement of the forthcoming Waveney Swim, http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/waveney-river-swim-2018-1-5452716

Inaugural Waveney River Swim is coming to Beccles
www.edp24.co.uk
An inaugural river swim is set to be held in Beccles at the gateway to the southern Broads.
I have read the details and corresponded with the organiser and in my honest opinion this whole, commercial project has to be viewed with extreme skepticism. The event is a race, that is quite clear. It isn't a case of two hundred  swimmers in line astern of each other, close to one bank, it's two hundred swimmers in competition.  Canny swimmers will want to use the tide to their advantage, cutting corners and changing sides in order to minimise the distance travelled.

Is it safe?
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3216996/Body-rescuers-searching-triathlete-feared-drowned-competing-swimming-leg-race.html

Triathlete Paul Gallihawk drowned in Leybourne Lakes, in ...
www.dailymail.co.uk
Paul Gallihawk, 34, (pictured) was taking part in his first triathlon when he entered one of the Leybourne Lakes in Larkfield, Kent, for a 750m swim but did not ...
I ask again, is it safe? The answer is clearly questionable but is almost certainly 'NO'. If we accept that, from a health and safety perspective, then we have to ask ourselves what we can do to reduce the risks.

The river Waveney is, I suppose, about fifty to sixty feet wide in the main reaches. On-coming and passing boats will need about thirty feet plus five, maybe ten feet of space from the bank. Swimmers, say three abreast, will need ten feet, plus several feet from the bank. Possible, with discipline, but would it happen? Whilst there is room for doubt then we have to accept that there is a very real risk.

We have to accept that Sundays are popular with both rented dayboats and private boats, the event is scheduled for the high season. Dayboats are available from Beccles, Burgh St Peter, Oulton Broad and St. Olaves, it has to be accepted that most will be helmed by novices and that there are very obvious risks to swimmers.

Swimmers are required to tow a visibility float, tethered to their bodies. I dread to think what would happen if the tether became entangled in an engaged propellor.

If swimmers are advised to hug the right hand bank then there are very obvious problems when swimmers need to cross the river to access the twenty-four hour moorings.

Boats are governed by the rules when it comes to navigation, swimmers are not.

Then we have the question of anglers. There might be a fishing match on that Sunday, there will certainly be individual anglers out on the bank. If an angler fails to remove their tackle on the approach of a swimmer then there is a very real possibility of a swimmer being foul-hooked.  That is especially so if an angler is reeling in their line when a swimmer becomes entangled. Consider that pike anglers, such as myself, might have two, sometimes four lines out and we can only wind one in at a time, we might have three treble hooks on each line.  This isn't fanciful thinking, the risks are very, very real and I write this as an experienced angler.

I am also a boater, I pay a toll to navigate the river and use the twenty-four hour moorings. That the event is a commercial enterprise rather than an established Broads event is also relevant.  Indeed it is being organised by a limited company, thus a company with limited liability and its obvious implications.

The organiser has assured me that a risk assessment has taken place, that the Broads Authority supports her venture. This might be the case but I can only suggest that the right questions have not been asked.

I sail a boat, I am well aware that if the wind drops then I might not be able to take avoiding action.  Are swimmers, in general, aware of the restrictions imposed on boats?  Consider that this is a competitive event.

The Authority has long preached that swimming on the Broads is not safe. I have to question why this change of policy, especially as we are talking two hundred swimmers  sharing a relatively narrow, restricted waterway, manouvering with and possibly in contact with large, sea-going motor yachts as well as numerous hired dayboats with inexperienced crews.  There is a very real risk of injury if not worse. Consider too the limited access to the river bank by emergency vehicles.

Mr Birtles, swimmers in close proximity of boats, especially motor boats, is a recipe for disaster. I can only ask that you reconsider the Authority's support for this ill conceived venture. Closing the navigation is not acceptable, I would also question the legality of that option. Anglers also have a right to fish tidal waters. this is enshrined in law.

So back to basics, is this venture safe? Is there a risk of tangling or being foul hooked with an angler's tackle? Is there a risk of a swimmer being injured or killed by contact with a boat's propellor? Can effective safety cover be guaranteed for every swimmer? Are the risks worth it? If the answer to any of those questions is NO then I have to suggest that the event is either cancelled or moved to a suitable venue such as the excellent lakes at Whitlingham.”

(My opinion is that Whitlingham lakes have already proven dangerous and are therefore unsuitable.)

I call upon the BA CEO to explain how this potentially dangerous event was sanctioned, to apologise for the error and to rescind BA permission immediately.



This message was edited by mardler on Apr-1-18 @ 11:20 AM

JollyRodger
Apr-01-2018 @ 12:13 PM                           Permalink
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Interesting one is this. My immediate guess is that the organiser had conducted their own risk assessment based on the Waveney as it is in March. That assessment has been accepted and signed off by the Authority without it conducting its own, independent assessment.

Whatever, it is very clearly an error of judgement both by the Authority and the organisers. I hope that they have the wisdom to at least relocate.

Jolly Rodger

Steve51
Apr-01-2018 @ 12:25 PM                           Permalink
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Mardles sometimes
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Interesting to note that the EDP thinks that Beccles is down river from WRC. Confused

Steve. CM1 and NR12

Marshman
Apr-01-2018 @ 5:10 PM                           Permalink
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Mardles sometimes
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So now the argument has worn many individuals to a frazzle on another site, lets transfer the argument here so it can start all over again??!!

To save you searching, within 5 days it received no less than 448 replies and nearly 10000 views - I am sure everything that can be said, and indeed most things that should not have been said, have already been said!!, But heh, in the name of free speech lets do it all over again!

Paladine
Apr-01-2018 @ 5:38 PM                           Permalink
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MM, I note that your post, which appears to be an attempt at stifling debate here, came after 200+ views and 6 hours after the OP. Apart from yours, there have only been two, rather non-committal, posts. I take that as an indication that members here are waiting until more credible information is available before exiting their perambulators.

"..for the avoidance of any doubt, the broads are not legally a national park and do not come under the national park legislation, and nor will they."
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for DEFRA (Hansard 2015)

Luise
Apr-01-2018 @ 5:54 PM                           Permalink
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“Interesting to note that the EDP thinks that Beccles is down river from WRC”

If we’re gonna nit-pick, how about: “If swimmers are advised to hug the right hand bank then there are very obvious problems when swimmers need to cross the river to access the twenty-four hour moorings”

The Waveney flowing from source to sea, and North Cove and Worlingham being on its right bank, perhaps that's the side they're being advised to swim on?

Peter

Harlequin
Apr-01-2018 @ 8:17 PM                           Permalink
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Paladine may be right.
But I personally think that it is more likely that members here couldn't care less about the event. Plus to their credit accept that the Broads are for all, whatever individuals choose as their odd pass-time.
I guess that my odd behaviour drifting around in a sail boat seems daft to some. Just as swimming in the Broads seems odd to me.
Each to their own!  

batrabill
Apr-01-2018 @ 9:54 PM                           Permalink
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Harlequin.
I’m with you.


Bill

Paladine
Apr-02-2018 @ 7:36 AM                           Permalink
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I am mindful that this forum tends to be Northern-rivers-oriented, while the forum that kicked off seems to be more concerned with the South, but the safety of the competitors is hardly any of our business. Nor do I see the additional hazards to boaters being any more than those of passing though a fleet of racing yachts. In fact, from a practical point of view, a metal-tipped bowsprit will do more damage to a GRP hull than will a neoprene-clad human body.

What would be of concern to our members, in my opinion, is the suggestion that the navigation might be closed to enable the competition to take place. Where might that lead, if it happened? But there is no official indication that it is even being considered.

We have been given the text of a lengthy letter that has been sent to the BA (thank you for sharing it, mardler) and I, for one, am content to await the response. We only have the information released by the organiser about who has ‘signed off’ on this and that information is far from satisfactory.

So maybe my opinion of the perspicacity of our members is higher than that of some of the previous posters. I fully expect them to react when there is something to react to, but shouting at shadows is not what we do.

I hope we never reach the stage when it can be said that NBF members ”couldn’t care less” about Broads matters.

"..for the avoidance of any doubt, the broads are not legally a national park and do not come under the national park legislation, and nor will they."
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for DEFRA (Hansard 2015)

JollyRodger
Apr-02-2018 @ 10:26 AM                           Permalink
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A very valid comment has been posted elsewhere and I think it worth repeating here. Passage swimming is a new activity to the Broads. It needs to be assessed in itself but also in conjunction with preexisting activities that take place on the Broads, e.g. angling and boating.

Jolly Rodger

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