Whilst other AU teams were competing at Varsity, Southampton University’s Lifesaving Club competed at the BULSCA Championships this weekend and emerged victorious, ranked sixth place nationally. Lifesaving club members James Chalk and Katie Featherstone tell us more.
When we mention to people that we have been to a Lifesaving Competition the most common reaction is a puzzled look and the question: “How can you compete in Lifesaving?”
At normal league events, mixed teams of four are pushed through a gruelling number of challenges.The first half consists of being assessed in dealing with two emergency situations under timed conditions in both a land-based and then a water-based scenario under the scrutiny of a panel of judges. Teams are evaluated on both their individual and team based skills with points being awarded for their ability to prioritise and treat casualties within the two minute time frame.
During the second half our teams’ fitness and endurance are pushed to their limits as we enter a number of relay races. Both speed and skill are important in events such as ‘Swim-Tow’ where each individual has to swim 50 metres of the pool before having to tow the next team member the same distance again. Sounds relatively simple, yet the challenge lies in sometimes having to drag a ‘body’ exceeding your own weight through the water. Team camaraderie is as essential as your speed as remaining buoyant, by holding your breath, will improve your team mate’s speed yet can have a dramatic impact on your ability to swim immediately afterwards. This is one of a handful of events our teams are usually faced with.
The start of the year was a challenge for Southampton University’s Lifesaving Club with the particularly high number of experienced leavers over the last two years it was imperative for the club to attract, maintain and train new members. With over two thirds of members being new to the club this year, being able to compete in league events has been an achievement in itself making the prospect of BULSCA National Championships from the 16th to the 17th of March intimidating to say the least.
BULSCA Championships goes above and beyond any league competition and spans a whole weekend. The Saturday is dedicated to speed events for male and female teams consisting of six members each who participate in both individual and relayed races. To show the standard of fitness required, one example of the many individual events is the ‘Super-Lifesaver’. This involves a 75 metre swim before immediately diving down to a depth of 2 metres to ‘rescue’ an 8 stone manikin and carrying it the remaining 25 metres. Having reached the end of the pool the competitor drops the manikin and must then force on scuba fins and a torpedo buoy as quickly as possible whilst in the water, turn and swim another 50 metres only to have to attach a four stone manikin to the torpedo buoy and tow it the final 50 metres. This tests not only the competitors endurance but also requires perfect technique in order to prevent disqualification.
On the Sunday the squads are broken down into mixed gendered teams of four and are assessed in a number of incidents, including one especially set up by the RNLI where the scenario is made to be as realistic as possible. Here boats, gushing blood and upturned vehicles are a common sight and teams must be prepared for any eventuality. This challenging weekend is then concluded by two more relayed events which push the teams to their limits. Up against 33 other teams, the best of whom have often been working alongside each other for years, we knew that this weekend was going to be tough but our members never let this dampen their enthusiasm.
Having survived the weekend and given it our all, we were happy in the knowledge that Zak Jelley had come third in the individual Rescue Medley and were expecting this to be our main success. However, as the results were slowly announced we were ecstatic to discover that all three of our Sunday teams had come within the top ten in the RNLI incident. A great achievement for all the teams but notably for our C Team which was comprised of four new members; a fantastic success for Rosie Farley’s debut appearance as a Captain showing a promising future for SULSC.
The greatest feat of the weekend came from Katie Featherstone, Hannah Robinson and Adam Proudley who, under the captaincy of Laura Whittington, formed our B Team. Their success in the water based incident surpassed all expectations as they came out National Champions!
Our Championship success, which seemed unfeasible at the start of the academic year, is the result of all our members determination, commitment and enthusiasm. With these traits SULSC should look forward to future success.