What a day for Netherlands-based Liz Hurst, arriving at Serps dressed like an Edam Scholar in anticipation of the All Clothes race, did she think she was in with a chance to win a race where you have to keep your kit on? You bet she did.
Knickers and lace win the race
Covered in more layers than a high rise Dutch pancake, Liz put her waffle to one side after 50metres to focus on the swim. As Liz put it "I worked out that I needed to swim with the hem of my skirt in my mouth. That was the secret to stop the 10ft of fabric getting tangled around my legs." Indeed, the last thing Liz would have needed was her Hems to Jam before returning to the Dutch capital on Sunday.
It was definitely a recyclable victory, as Liz declared "everything was homemade using scraps from my sister's fabric box. The hat is buckram... normally used to keep the pleats in your curtains stiff." That was all Liz was prepared to say about the Nether Regions which was Gouda enough for all.
A Twinset of Pearls
Serpentine refreshes the parts other swimming clubs cannot reach
Back to England and the Serpentine. The Stellar Trois who took the top three places were Liz, with Linda second and Elina third.
Prizes were kindly donated by 84-year-old John 'Sexy' Sextone and wife Marian (forgivably absent due to injury a broken back and pelvis) writes Alan Mitchell.
Also competing with clothes from their closets were: a Pope, (Simone), barrister, (George), ballet dancer (Rob), Clown (Geoff), inflatable polar bear (Mike H). Action man Andy, and a selection of besuited and dressed Serpentine worthies.
Liz Hurst with John Sextone
Neat dress essential
One member not realising it was the ‘all clothes’ race commented that Mike Olizar was looking very smart, smarter than usual and was he going onto something special! Definitely, neat dress essential is the dress code for Serps, and failing that, at least wear a neatly pressed tracksuit.
In addition to the prizes kindly presented by John Sextone, Susan generously presented a swan containing a very creative flower arrangement to the best-dressed swimmer. This went to the polar bear aka Mike Harris. The members were very relieved to see that Mike had survived his immersion inside the inflatable polar bear. Mike and bear will be travelling to Biarritz to test it in the sea.
The ‘Sexy’s All Clothes Cup Race, sponsored since 1983 by John and Marian Sextone, has a long tradition in the Serpentine calendar stretching back to the 19th century.
Originally swam with the serious purpose of encouraging personal survival skills should members fall fully clothed into London's murky waters it has evolved over the years to become a more light-hearted event competed for by aspiring polar bears, Popes, Dutch milkmaids, ballerinas and clowns.
This was not the case in the past where competitors clothes would be carefully weighed to ensure they reached the required degree of heaviness (8 lbs or 3.6 kg) and then a detailed inspection would be carried out by the race sponsor, Burdett-Coutts, checking that all items of specified clothing were being worn including leather shoes or boots.
Rather than the relaxed 110 yards we now swim, wade or walk over, the race was swam across the Serpentine. Swimmers would swim halfway across and then in 4 metres (14 foot) depth have to remove their clothes and throw them into a rowing boat without themselves touching the craft. Any contact resulting in instant disqualification. They then swam the remainder of the race in their heavy woollen costumes.
Thank you all
John joined the Club in 1980 having previously swam at Tooting Bec Lido. John was one of a number of South London Swimming Club members who migrated to the warmer and more temperate climate of the Serpentine whilst Tooting Bec was being refurbished, and he stayed on to give a much needed boost to club membership. John is the only member to have won the prestigious Bridge to Bridge race three times, 1987, 1990 and 1993. He came second in a Christmas Day race by a fingertip and it was believed he allowed an older member to win not realising that the older man had been a previous winner.
As well as being a highly accomplished swimmer, John was a founding member of the Serpentine Running Club and competed in 17 marathons. Illness unfortunately ended both his swimming and running but he remains a regular and enthusiastic attendee at the Serpentine on Saturday mornings. Sadly Marian could not join John today as she is recovering from several bad fractures. She is recovering well. John hopes to rejoin us before long in the sacred waters of the Serps.