In 2022 Storm Eunice closed Hyde Park and consequently stopped us racing. Nothing could stop Squirrel storming home in 2023.
The magnificent pewter trophy was presented to then club captain Harry Coulter in 1868. In our foundation year, 1864, Harry became our first club captain and also won the inaugral Christmas Day race.
In addition to Harry Coulter, the 1868 Captains' cup race allows us to celebrate the ever popular, and sadly missed, Gordon Brodie, captain 2003 to 2019, and Deirdre Ward, our current club captain and Irish marathon swimming legend.
The fixture is also the first of four handicapped races through the season over varying distances that count towards the Emmi Hunte cup series - February 55 yards (50m), March 110 yards (100m), August 880 yards (800m), and October 100 yards (91m).
The 1868 Captains' cup
After the presentation cup winner Squirrel celebrated with friends in the Serpentine Cafe
Yvonne Van der Heul (aka Squirrel) received the Captains' cup from current club captain Deirdre Ward
Yvonne, with her characteristic double arm backstroke, led the first race from the start.
Robin and Dani get the fast mob going
Race finished and Sakura makes a move to elbow her way to winning the "first out of the water competition"
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.
Robert Ouldcott explained how Yvonne was pipped by a whisker by fellow South African Katie Berlyn Holmes in last year's Christmas Day race.
Second place for Nick Hungerford
Birthday girl Venessa Marshall third up for a prize.
Big hug for fourth place George Cselko.
Sakura Adams won her prize for her place in the race, not for being the first out of the water.
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 an English Channel swim but to his (and our) 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.
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 ready for her 2014 round Manhattan swim
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
2016 (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 completed her two-way Channel crossing on 24 August 2016
Eager for more detail?
For more detail on club legends Harry Coulter, Gordon Brodie and Deirdre Ward please follow this link to the "race we missed" report from 2021.
(report compiled by Brian Thomas)