On Saturday 27 February Deirdre Ward would have presented the 1868 Captain's Cup. A chance for us to remember our recent captain, Gordon Brodie, appreciate our current captain, Deirdre Ward and pay homage to a founding member and first club captain, Harry Coulter. This decorative pewter cup was originally presented to Henry E Coulter (Harry) in 1868. Harry won the very first Christmas morning race in 1864 and was club captain 1864 - 1869.
The fixture is also the first in the series of handicapped races through the season over varying distances for the Emmi Hunte cup - February 55 yards (50m), March 110 yards (100m), August 880 yards (800m), and October 100 yards (91m).
Harry Coulter, the first captain
Harry had already been named "Champion of the Serpentine" before the club was founded
On 1st July 1863 Henry E Coulter (Harry) was matched with J.P.Jones of the 'Bermondsey Dolphins'whom he beat over the 1,000 yards length of the lake to become 'Champion of the Serpentine'. This was prior to the club's founding. Harry became the winner of the very first Serpentine Swimming Club Christmas morning handicap in 1864.
In those early years, the 1,000 yards length of the lake was also used to decide the Club Captaincy. In 1864, aged 28, Coulter's winning time was 20 mins. 10secs. Breastroke was the stroke of the elite competitors in those days, the "Australian crawl" yet to be devised. Harry went on to win each year until 1869 when T.Morris broke the spell by defeating him.
Harry Coulter was a swimmer of national standard and competed in race challenges for what was, in the 1860s, extremely large purses of, for instance, £25 and even £50. In those early days of the club and in swimming in general professionals and amateurs would often race together.
Deirdre Ward, our current club captain
Deirdre joined the club in 2006. The committee recognised her inspirational skills when "team Serpentine" competed away and appointed her vice-Captain in 2014 and, following the sad passing of Gordon Brodie, club Captain in 2019.
Deirdre is an Irish Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame member
The club is proud to have such an accomplished swimmer within our ranks. She will never boast, or even remotely refer to her feats. So here is a little list:
2010 (1) Switzerland Lake Zurich 16.2 miles (26 km) 8 hours 33 mins
2012 (2) UK France English Channel 21 miles (34km) 14 hours 30 mins
2014 (3) USA MIMS 28.8 miles (46km) 9 hours 21 mins
2014 (4) UK 2-way Windermere 21 miles (34km) 12 hours 2 mins
2014 (5) UK France English Channel 21 miles (34km) 15 hours 31 mins
2014 (6) UK France 2-way English Channel 42 miles (68km) 27 hours 52 mins
2018 (7) UK (Scotland) Loch Lomond 21.6 miles (35 km ) 10 hours 45 mins
2019 (8) Switzerland Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) (44 miles) (75km) 25 hours 45 mins
2017 Winter English Channel Winter relay (December) 21 miles (relay) 13 hours 18 mins
Deirdre with SSC's Rosemary Franklin-George, another Channel legend
Two-way English Channel crossing, 24 August 2016
After the finish
Husband Mike Barron is the key member of Deirdre's support crew (along with Mum and Dad)
Deirdre and the jellyfish
"Nothing great is easy" (Captain Matthew Webb, 1875, the first to swim the Channel)
Shortly after one very stormy swim to France, Deirdre summed up her 2015 English Channel solo by saying “I was thrown around like a leaf out there in the middle” and added “I had so many jellyfish stings, I gave up counting, and the pain of the next sting made you forget the pain of the previous one.”
Also an Otter
Deirdre is also a member of the Otters Swimming Club. You can read about them here:
Compared to the Serpentine SC they are the flighty new kids on the block, having been founded as recently as 1869.
Gordon Brodie, club Captain 2003 to 2019
Gordon joined the club in 1990. He was renowned for his songs in the changing room and his encyclopedic knowledge of boxing. Gordon trained for a solo Channel swim but to his immense disappointment the weather turned the night before the attempt and the pilot called off the swim. Had he been successful he would have been the oldest person to have made a maiden solo swim.
The cup had been in the club's possession for many years but it was not until 2018 that it was introduced to honour club captain Gordon
Shelley-Anne was so pleased with her trophy she almost swept Gordon off his feet
The cup had been in the club's possession for many years but it was not until 2018 that it was introduced to honour club captain Gordon. The first Saturday of March, 2018 saw the "beast from the east" in full fury. Though the 55 yard event was held the weather was far too icy for Gordon to attend. Gordon presented the cup to winner Shelley-Anne Claircourt later in the spring.