Sunday, 20 November 2011

Back to Balmain for the 2011 Dawny's swim around Cockatoo Island on Sydney Harbour

Dawny's Baths, with the right-hand corner of Cockatoo Island in the distance. We headed out to the derrick (named after a bloke called Derrick?) crane to circumnavigate the island in an anti-clockwise direction
A dip in Sydney Harbour on Sunday morning isn't everyone's cup of tea. But a growing number of mug punters are turning up for the annual Dawny's swim around Cockatoo Island. 

If you read you'll know this swim used to be regarded as the first swim of the ocean-swimming season in NSW. It's now pipped at the post by Collaroy and Narrabeen on Sydney's Northern Beaches. 

I still see it as numero uno as it coincides with the start of summer and gives me a chance to test myself in reasonably calm conditions without the pressure of the run in and out of the surf. 

Dawny's starts in the harbour just outside the Dawn Fraser Baths, which was built in the early 1880s making it the oldest pool in Australia. Last year I'm pretty sure the 2.5 km course ran clockwise around Cockatoo Island but this year it was anti-clockwise. The swim is on nice and early at 9.10am so it's over before the ferries start to transport tourists to and from the island. Today was hot and steamy so it was a relief to get out of the water and into the shade before the sun got serious.

As is tradition, before the swim I liaised with my ocean swims' mate of five years, Davo. 

Davo, who happens to be my brother-in-law, said he hadn't swum all winter though he does bootcamp three mornings a week with a couple of blokes and a personal trainer. He's pretty fit for an old bloke (that'll get a comment from him - or his dog). Have a gander at his arm. He insisted on a photo to commemorate his first swim. Winner or loser?

This arm means business
There are two Dawny's swims, a 2.5 km and a 1 km swim that is run as soon as the longer distance swimmers have left - again, this is tied into ferry timetables. 

Davo and I jumped off the jetty/pontoon with a couple of hundred swimmers in our age group and waited for the gun. We were left to tread water for at least five minutes. I was a bit jumpy about THEY WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED and lifted my legs instinctively whenever they knocked another person's. Fortunately, the only things to worry about were jelly blubbers and a bit of weed. 

The water temp was a comfortable 21 degrees (my guess) and the water quality seemed okay, though after the swim I had grease on my face, probably from motorcraft exhausts and the moored boats close to the finish.

My goals in this swim were to 1. not stop 2. maintain a consistent pace 3. keep to the course. 
I did well with the first two. Last year I stopped a couple of times, which is lovely in one respect because I got a geek at the harbour, the island and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the distance. This year I missed all that because I kept my head down and really only noticed the other swimmers and two of the derrick cranes and a chimney that are the island's landmarks. 

The chop on the right-hand corner and around the back of the island was pronounced. I didn't look up as I swallowed salty harbour but guessed it was caused by boats heading towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I'm still not good at sticking to an optimal course - there were times when all the other swimmers seemed to be hugging the island while I was out wide. Also, the sun got in my eyes on the way back in. I remember this from 2010. It's hard to see where you are because of the glare and the moored boats that block a view of the pontoon and jetty. When I got to the pontoon ladder a couple of volunteers helped me get out. It's hard to get your land legs after a long swim.

Afterwards, I waited for Davo. It's usually the other way around so either my squad training has paid off or Davo's slow to get started this season (that'll get a comment). 

When Davo did 'land' on the pontoon he got a cramp in his calf muscle, which he put down to a couple of volunteers hauling him out a bit too enthusiastically. Whatever, it looked dramatic from a distance. He came good and we queued on the boardwalk at Dawny's for a complimentary* fry-up of bacon, eggs, sausage and salad on a roll.

Next week is Coogee. Sand, surf and loads more competitors.

*The entry fee is $35, which is good value as half a mango, oranges and fry-up are included in cost.


Anonymous said...

Ok, you win. The combination of your training and my lack of swimming paid off. I made it round the course but you'd run out all the hot water by the time I got back. The old bloke comment was a bit of a worry as I think I gave the organisers a scare when I cramped. Black cap down! Black cap down! Davo

Shayne said...

Yay. I win. But not for long.