The Coniston 5.25 mile Chillswim and the Dart 10k are two late season longish distance open water events. In a fight which one would win?
Both events take place in early September at the end of the open water season, sometimes on the same weekend. I swam the Dart last year. It was tough, it was cold, I didn’t train hard enough and I didn’t even get a mention in Jeff’s tri club write up but I loved it! Any way, I entered the Chillswim, so he entered the Chillswim, then he said “are you not entering the Dart, its on a different weekend?” The kids raised their eyebrows and looked at each other. So that was how I did both. Two swims, totalling 11.5 miles, 6 days apart. Expensive but not so bad if you volunteer to help. Which I did at the Dart.
So which one did I like best, or would I recommend to someone new to this adventure. The Dart 10k is longer in distance but you spend less time in the water because the current carries you along to the sea. For me the Dart took around 2hrs 50 mins and the Chillswim 3hrs 40mins. I am hopeful that at some time the Dart organisers will introduce a ‘float down on your lilo’ wave and I will definitely be up for that.
The Chillswim takes place in Coniston Water. The autumn scenery is amazing and the area is popular with tourists so it is necessary to book accommodation well in advance. The Dart also takes place in one of the loveliest holiday areas of the UK (from Totnes to Dittisham in Devon), so again book accommodation in advance. They are both around £100 each to enter and both popular events so they sell out quickly, often on the day entries open. I got a reduced price entry at the Dart in return for a morning of volunteering. Some friends manned a double safety canoe at the Chillswim and were paid a small fee.
The Dart has around 800 swimmers on each day (Saturday and Sunday). I swam on Saturday and volunteered at registration on Sunday. I met some lovely like-minded people that I will hopefully see again on the OW circuit. As it turned out our older daughter also volunteered at the finish on Saturday, directing and helping return baggage to tired swimmers. The Dart has a transportation service to take your warm clothes from the start to the finish. The Chillswim has around 700 competitors and runs on a Saturday. Swimmers leave their belongings at the finish and are bussed ‘ready to swim’ to the start. They also need a safety tow float which is not required in the Dart.
The Chillswim has marker buoys at every mile and feeding stations at every mile+ 1/2, so five mile markers alternating with five feeding stations. This is reassuring because you can easily sight the next marker and tick off progress on your mental map. The Dart shows you a map at registration and you have to rely on spotting features in the landscape to estimate your position. There are also only two feeding stations anchored in the middle of the river.
The water at Coniston was crystal clear giving views of the reeds several meters below the surface throughout the swim. Most of the swim is also close to the bank of the lake and I spotted several swimmers ‘taking a break’ on the beach. There had been a lot of rain in the week before the Dart making the water colder (around 12 degrees at the start) (BAD) but the current faster (GOOD). Stormy weather also means more debris in the river and I collided with several ‘rafts’ of seaweed and floating branches during my swim.
The Dart provided a souvenir beach towel to all finishers (last year it was a souvenir mug) and hot chocolate, whereas the Chillswim provides a medal, but by the time I had finished the hot blackcurrant squash had run out. Both provided impressive swim caps to show off at Tri club training sessions.
I think on balance the Chillswim was harder work but less stressful than the Dart. They were both great fun and I am hoping that they will be on separate weekends again next year for another attempt at the ‘double’.