Thrilling Skins event is highlight of Newmarket’s start to new season

The Newmarket and District SC at the Thetford Nifty Fifty event

The Newmarket and District SC at the Thetford Nifty Fifty event - Credit: Archant

It’s a test of stamina, tactics and, ultimately, speed.

It also happens to be one of the most exciting events you can watch in a swimming pool, up there with the drama of a hard-fought relay.

A Skins competition is not something you are likely to see at the Olympic Games or a Commonwealth championships but many clubs run them as part of their annual in-house competitions.

Simply put, it is a knockout competition with entrants selected based on entry times from a preceding event at the same meet (often the 50m freestyle or 100m individual medley).

In the first round swimmers set off with a proper competition start, but in subsequent rounds they get just a 10 second warning before the gun goes off – it’s up to them to be ready on their blocks before that.

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The slowest competitor, or someone getting disqualified, in each round (all over 50m) is knocked out and just three minutes after their first race, the remaining swimmers do it all again until someone is the last person standing.

Added interest comes from men’s and women’s Skins being run simultaneously, usually alternating at 90 second intervals.

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One club running such an event is Newmarket and District SC which held its club championship Skins last weekend.

On Sunday evening at the town’s pool six boys and girls, selected on the strength of their 100IM times, took to the water to battle it out.

While some Skins events stick to a single stroke, others such as Newmarket’s change from round to round, favouring swimmers with good all-round technique. The eliminated swimmer draws the stroke for the following round from a hat for the remaining competitors to face over 50m.

In the girls’ event Olivia Curtin was first to depart. Belinda Dow was next out and Gemma Booth followed.

Tess Wesley claimed a gallant third before the fast-improving Ciara Gill-Ryan took on last years’ champion Charlie Davis in the final.

Wesley pulled butterfly from the hat and Gill-Ryan showed her supremacy on the second 25m to win well.

The boys’ Skins saw Peter Winter leaving the fray after the first round.

He was followed first by James Hood and then Alex Swarbrick.

Joseph Bavey was a superb third and the showdown final was a scintillating freestyle race between Harry Saunders and Henry Newell.

Newell had stamina to burn and used all his experience to come home in less than 30 seconds for victory.

It was an exciting end to a run of early season events for NDSC which sent a team to the Nifty Fifty event in Thetford the previous weekend.

Following that meet coach Annette Skeet said: “There was some exciting racing with many Newmarket swimmers picking up trophies.

“I am very proud of all our swimmers and the Nifty Fifty event is a good way to see where we are at the start of the season.

“All our swimmers were on or above their PB’s (personal bests) which gives a good start to the year.”

Performing particularly well were Romilly Marks, who picked up five gold medals, and Lauren Watt and Joseph Bavey with four golds each.

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