Gavin swims 1.5 Miles for RNLI in spite of postponement of Great North Swim

6th September 2010


Be Inspired


RNLI Crew Volunteers are committed so were we

On Saturday 4th September my friend Jon and I were due to swim 1 mile in the Great North Swim on Lake Windermere for the RNLI.  Unfortunately on the Thursday evening before, the Great North Swim was postponed due to toxic blue-green algae in Windermere.

My initial response to the postponement was mixed. I was disappointed but also relieved as I had picked up a shoulder injury in both shoulders due to the training.

Given that there was no certainty another date would be found for the event this year we decided to swim our mile in neighbouring Lake, Rydal Water.

Once the shout goes out for a lifeboat crew they do whatever it takes to get to their casualty and get them safely ashore demonstrating amazing seamanship and courage.

We decided we would do whatever it took to complete the mile for the RNLI.

Jon and I had first met sailing on the Russian Tall Ship Sedov in the 1993 Tall Ships Race from Newcastle to Bergen.  We have been friends since sailing on a number of trips on the West Coast of Scotland amongst others.  Our respective sailing experiences include an Atlantic crossing each, Norway, Spitsbergen, the Caribbean and Mediterranean and New Zealand.  Jon, even becoming a professional sailor during a 5 year sabbatical from the Police Force.

In March I decided to swim the Great North Swim and Jon responded to the challenge. Almost without saying, we both knew that we would be doing the swim for the RNLI.

During the summer Jon got some training in the sea off Tynemouth Longsands under the watchful eye of the RNLI lifeguard team.  I meanwhile was building up my fitness and training in the warmth of the local swimming pool, much to the derision of Jon!  My first open water swim was in Rydal Water (just north of Lake Windermere) swimming 1.5 miles in early August accompanied by an experienced open water swimmer. I was surprised how much I loved the experience.

Jon Hilsden & Gavin Preston (pictured right) just after swimming 1.5 miles in Rydal Water In aid of RNLI

Whilst many people complain that swimming in an indoor pool is monotonous , swimming outdoors in open water is an invigorating experience particularly in such a stunning environment as the Lake District.  I was hooked after my first swim.  In fact such was my enthusiasm 3 days later I swam another 1.5 miles in Windermere with a friend alongside in a support boat.  Including pool training sessions I swam just under 5 miles in the week.  What I thought was tired shoulder muscles turned out on a visit to a sports massage specialist to be problems with my “rotator cuff” muscles.  I had never heard of them but I could certainly feel them all of a sudden!

Fast forward three weeks to the weekend of the Great North Swim. I had not been able to train for 3 weeks given the problems with my shoulders and for a moment the news of postponement “let me off the hook”.  It was a sobering thought that the Lifeboat crews do not “let themselves off the hook” from providing such a self-less life saving function, so in the same spirit we committed to follow through and swim a mile for the RNLI, after all we had people who had sponsored us.

Gavin Preston ( pictured on the left) and Jon Hilsden emerging from Rydal Water after swimming 1.5 miles for the RNLI in spite of the postponement of the Great North Swim.

Jon’s partner was stationed on the shore with mobile phones in case of emergency and Jon and I got changed into our wetsuits and set off on what turned out to be an enjoyable swim around the perimeter of Rydal Water.  Unsurprisingly we were not the only Great North Swim participants who had chosen Rydal water as the place to do their mile.  In fact we were having such an enjoyable swim with the sun shining taking in the magnificent scenery that we covered 1.5 miles without realising it.

We were rewarded with hearty picnic on the shore when we had finished and a pint in the local pub to celebrate having raised over £1250 between the two of us for the RNLI.

Help us raise money for the RNLI you never know when you may be glad of the services of the RNLI.

If the Great North Swim goes ahead this year we will of course swim another mile for the RNLI.

See the RNLI press release covering our swim

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