A record 68 open water swimming teams competed in Windermere’s fifth Big Chill Swim relays at the weekend, whilst international swimmers carried off individual gold medals in various sprint and endurance races in the gala.

Hosted by Low Wood Bay Resort Hotel & Marina, the official Winter Swimming Association event, part of the World Cup series, featured 1,000 competitors from as far afield as Chile and Russia.

The weekend’s racing was particularly fruitful for Finland’s Elina Makinen, who swept the field with six golds and a silver medal.  Makinen emerged victorious in the 120m freestyle, the 60m freestyle, the women’s 30m ‘Ice Fly’, and the longer 240m and 450m endurance swims.

The men’s 1km British Championship, the main endurance challenge for experienced cold water swimmers, was won by Scotland’s James Leitch in 13 minutes 9 seconds, whilst Makinen completed her tally by taking the honours in the women’s 1km race.

German open water swimming star, Benjamin Konschak, took five golds in all: the 30m heads up breaststroke, the 120m freestyle, the 60m freestyle, the 240m and the inaugural 30m ‘Ice Fly’ in which he set a blistering time of 17 minutes 53 seconds.

The 450m endurance event for men was won by Christof Wandratsch from Germany, a consolation for yielding the 1km crown, which he had held for four years, to Leitch. Team Viktoria from Russia picked up the gold in the relay, with Shopshire Wild winning plaudits for finishing in 66th place swimming in fancy dress.

Chillswim director Colin Hill says:  “The Big Chill Swim at Low Wood Bay is now an established international open water swimming event.  It is wonderful to see so many top competitors coming from all over the globe to swim here and compete so strongly against each other – and in such good spirit too.

“We are already looking at ways to extend the capacity of the event both in terms of numbers and the variety of racing distances.”

Ben Berry from English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues adds:  “This was a fantastic event organised by Chillswim and a measure of its popularity that so many relay teams came out in force, whether competing at the top level or participating for fun or to raise funds for worthy causes.  We’re thrilled that Team Low Wood Bay won the local Cumbria trophy and managed to get on the podium for the overall relay.”

The Big Chill Swim was sponsored by Northern Pontoon and Chillswim events are being supported by Arena and Dryrobe.  Podium winners were awarded their medals and prizes before attending a Barn Dance at Low Wood Bay Resort Hotel & Marina.  For further information, visit englishlakes.co.uk