Barracudas Flying the Flag in Germany

Published: Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Report by Elaine Fitchie

Well as you know we had nine swimmers competing in the 37th International Masters Swimming Event hosted by Flensberger SchwimmKlub in northern Germany this weekend (24 February). This is the first time that an English club has competed in the event so we were flying the flag for the UK and for South Ribble, as Flensburg is one of the Borough’s twin towns.

We were competing with swimmers from clubs from Denmark, Sweden, and Germany and faced some fairly tough competition. The event was swum in the Club’s wonderful university facility which was a 50m eight lane pool with a boom which converted it into a 25m event pool and a separate warm up pool. The rest of the competitive accessories
like electronic timing, racing starting blocks and event results software were also of a high standard. The Club had lots of members supporting the event to make sure it ran with customary German efficiency and within five minutes of the end of the gala we had received an electronic file with all the results on and individual branded certificates with all our events and times on.

We were a little surprised when we discovered that the awards were offered differently to how it is done in UK masters event. With each event consisting of up to eleven different age bands, awards were based on FINA points across all competitors in each event, rather than awards for the winners in each individual age band. This made securing an event medal much more difficult to achieve but despite this the team did exceptionally well with six members setting personal best times - (Chris Horne, Chris Hamer, Elaine Fitchie, Emily Sinkinson and Jess Thorpe). Jess stole the show though with outstanding performances to finish 1st in her age band for all four of her individual events, taking three overall FINA event Bronze medals and setting a new ‘Event Record’ for her age band in the 50m Backstroke - a time which she actually bettered when she led off the 4 x 50m Mixed Individual Medley Relay team.

Overall, we came home with 14 age band winners; 4 second placed swimmers and 3 third placed swimmers. Carole Jepson took an overall FINA event Bronze medal in the 100m Breaststroke and got the 4 x 50m Ladies Breaststroke relay team (consisting of Jess Thorpe, Emily Sinkinson, myself and Carole Jepson) off to a great start resulting in an
overall FINA Bronze medal for the team as well. (This was despite the handicap of me competing in my first ever competitive Breaststroke event - and there is a very good reason for this!)

We also had our own close up battle in the 4 x 50m Mixed Individual Medley relay where we had two teams competing in adjoining lanes. No pressure then! With very little between us on paper it was a close battle with the team of (Matt Houghton, Carole Jepson, myself and Matt Burrows) finishing in 2nd place in our age band but losing the inter-team battle in the water by coming in just behind our younger age band squad of (Jess Thorpe, Chris Hamer, Ashley Leech and Emily Sinkinson). It has to be said though, thanks to FINA points the older team also finished two places ahead in the overall FINA ranking table!

After the medal ceremony the event finished off with a fun relay which was something completely new so, despite being tired, we just had to enter a team. Some members were noticeably more enthusiastic to enter than others and I don’t think it had anything to do with the umbrellas! So, the race involved six members of the team forming a relay which consisted of swimming one length of the pool carrying an open umbrella, climbing out to drink a glass of beer, then diving back in to do another length carrying the umbrella ready to hand-off to the next member of the team. Unfortunately we were out-classed when it came to the umbrella swimming and the drinking! Our leg kicks weren’t good enough to compete with the Germans nor the Scandinavians (but don’t tell the Chief Coach!) and our drinking was way off the mark with only Chris Hamer being able to do this at ‘race speed’! Nonetheless the event made a wonderful end to the day’s swimming and we thoroughly enjoyed taking part.

We were treated exceptionally well by our German hosts throughout the weekend and were made to feel extremely welcome. We were greeted at the train station by two members of the Flensburg club carrying two packs of local beer as a welcome gesture and two cars to taxi us to our hotel. To our surprise they ensured that they had two members’ with their cars ready to take us to and from the pool each day. They had also contacted the local Marine base to make sure they had a full-size Union Jack flag to hang on the poolside along with the other country flags. When I had an allergic reaction in my eye on race day they made sure I got prompt treatment and kept checking on my condition throughout the day.

At the end of the event we were invited to join their club members at a local restaurant for a meal. As we walked in we were greeted with welcoming cheers and joined by different club members throughout the night. When we each wanted to buy one of their club t-shirts and caps they weren’t keen on taking our money but with some insistence we managed to persuade them. At the end of the evening one of their members even stayed behind to ferry us home if our taxis didn’t arrive.

Without exception each member of our team said that they thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and are now saving up for next year. Hopefully we can take a larger team across but we need to get some more kick training and speed drinking in before then if we are to stand a chance in the fun relay! (Note to Chief Coach - it doesn’t need to be beer drinking, it can be water!) The Flensburg club are also really keen to come over to swim with us so we will be looking at options to host them sometime in the future.

Note to Masters swimmers: The event is held on the same week-end each year so if you are interested in coming in 2019 please let me know and get the date in your diary!