Four years ago Val Coates Rees, one of the 70s swimmers, asked if the Tenby Sea Swimming Association (organisers of the annual Boxing Day Swim) would consider resurrecting the swim and turning it into a regular annual event within Tenby’s burgeoning Summer Festival of Sport. The Caldey Swim was reborn.
In 2013, 50 swimmers made the crossing and in 2014 100 took part.
Last year, a summer of changing weather produced a windy, choppy water offer for the day of the Swim. Always acting with safety foremost, the event had to be cancelled. And in the midst of an ever burgeoning Tenby summer festival of sport – think Long Course Weekend, Tenby 10K, Ironman Wales et al – that was it. There was no alternative Sunday when the tides matched the organisers’ criteria of conditions.
So, this year’s Caldey Swim, on Sunday 14th August, has an extra, rarity value. And when the three Caldey boats take the 100 swimmers from Castle Beach at 9.45 over to Priory Beach, Caldey, ready for their 10.45 start, many of them, frustrated by last year’s disappointment, will be thinking they are, indeed, special.
A special event it is: an open sea swim of about 2.4 miles from Caldey Island to Tenby harbour is a real challenge. So important are the tides, the rip, the wind that the conditions have to be almost perfect for the event to take place. And you have to do it in a long dogleg direction; if you went straight you’d end up on Pendine beach!
Eight power craft (ribs & jet skis), nearly 20 kayaks, three motor vessels, a tall masted sailing ship as a marker, a dedicated team of coastguards, specialist medical teams at both ends of the swim, maybe even a lifeboat or two if there are no ‘shouts’ coinciding, Tenby Mayor and Chair of Pembrokeshire County Council to share handing out the medals, athletes’ bottles of water for before and after the swim, bananas for an energy grab on completion, there’s a lot that contributes to a simple, but actually rather complicated event.
And let’s not forget the sponsors who kindly help with the costs – Princes Gate Springwater, Big Brum’s Carpet & Furniture, The Port of Milford Haven – who also enable the Swim to raise loads of money for Tenby RNLI.
So at 7am on Sunday 14th August, please keep your fingers crossed that the conditions are sufficiently favourable for the organisers to ‘wave the green flag’ and keep them crossed until 10.45 when the swim is due to start. If you’d like to catch the finish, on the far side of Tenby Harbour quay, the first swimmer should arrive at about 11.30, the last by 12.45. You could go out on the spectator boats, leaving from Castle Beach at about 10.25, or simply watch from The Esplanade, Castle Hill, Tenby Harbour or on the beach where they land. You could even join in the congratulatory clapping – the exhausted swimmers will truly deserve your applause.