From Nepean to Britannia: Bring on the Bay

From Nepean to Britannia: Bring on the Bay

In the pre-pandemic era, this was the time of year that open water swimmers in the national capital region and surrounding areas would be looking forward to the highlight event of summer — the Bring on the Bay (BOTB) swim in the Ottawa River.

Bring on the Bay started 15 years ago when a small group of swimmers decided to swim the three kilometres from the Nepean Sailing Club to the Britannia Yacht Club. The event has grown in leaps and bounds with over 900 swimmers participating in 2019. The event was cancelled in 2020 and has gone virtual in 2021. Organizers are looking forward to 2022 when the live version of the event will (hopefully) return.

Bring on the Bay is now one of the largest open water swim events in Canada and is certainly the most well-organized.

What makes it unique is the swimming corridor, which is lined with yachts anchored every 100 metres, each bearing a placard indicating the distance remaining.

In addition, there are countless support craft on the water, from canoes and kayaks to stand-up paddleboards and the professional firefighter water rescue crew.

What makes it special is the Swim Angel Program. BOTB is the only open water swimming event in Canada with an angel program, and one of only a handful in North America with such a program.

What is a swim angel? It is an experienced open water swimmer who swims alongside a swimmer to provide an extra measure of confidence and safety needed for them to be able to participate. These are swimmers who are physically able to complete the race but could (or would) not do it (safely) without having an angel present. If required during the race, the angel provides reassurance and encouragement to their swimmer in order to help them to avoid panic and to be able to finish the race. If the swimmer needs to be pulled from the race, they will provide immediate assistance until a nearby kayak/boat arrives. The Swim Angel Program makes Bring on the Bay one of the most inclusive large sporting events in Canada.

It is quite a spectacular sight to see hundreds of swimmers sporting different colour swim caps making their way down the Ottawa River toward the finish line. For open water swimmers it is a mid-summer day’s dream to be able to participate in an event that is this well supported.

We have participated every year for the past 12 years and can’t wait for it to return in 2022. I should mention that this event is the largest fundraising activity for the Easter Seals in eastern Ontario. Yet another reason to hope for its return next year.