RAIN, wind and a day’s cancelled swimming failed to dampen the spirits of participants in this year’s Great North Swim at Windermere.

Met Office forecasts of gusts up to 50mph forced organisers to curtail the three-day event for safety reasons, with Sunday’s entrants offered a Saturday swim slot instead.

Despite challenging conditions at Low Wood Bay, including “relentless” rain on Saturday, the first two days of the programme went ahead as planned.

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Thousands of entrants donned their coloured caps to dive into events ranging from the popular new 250m Great Swim – aimed at swimmers aged eight and upwards – to the classic one-mile course and the SwimRun trails across rugged Lake District terrain towards Rydal and Grasmere.

On the shore, 2008 Olympic silver medal-winning open water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne joined the hordes of enthusiastic supporters who cheered on not only the waves of entrants but the teams of safety kayakers and personnel out on the water.

Ice cream sales may have been a little slow, but trade in hot coffee and burgers proved brisk as spectators did their best to keep warm.

“There was an amazing atmosphere over the whole weekend,” said Alex Jackson, director of the Great Swim series. “Even in really grim rain the site was as busy as we've ever seen it.”

David Hart, the event’s communications director, said the “overwhelming response” to Sunday’s swims being called off was “one of complete understanding” from entrants, who included the elite swimmers.

The decision was taken at 4pm on Friday by the independent event planning group, who decided that forecasts of 20mph winds gusting up to 50mph meant the lake would have been too dangerously choppy for participants and safety marshals.

“Our absolute priority, the first thing on our list, is safety,” said David.

“As it proved on Sunday when the winds were gusting, and getting stronger and stronger throughout the day, to put people out on the water would have been completely irresponsible.”

He told the Gazette: “The most important thing is everybody who took part is safe and well, so we didn't have any significant medical emergency through the whole of the weekend. That is testament to people's responsible preparation and also the unsung heroes, the kayakers and safety personnel out on the water.”

With dates for 2018’s Great North Swim being finalised, entrants can now sign up to the online reminder service at www.greatrun.org/great-swim/great-north-swim

David told the Gazette: “The water temperature this year was 15.5C, last year was nearly 22C, so hopefully in June next year we will have a nice, warm, flat lake and an uninterrupted programme.”