Looking Towards the Future Through the Past: The 2017 Plymouth Leander Harwich Cup National Qualifier

Looking Towards the Future Through the Past:
The 2017 Plymouth Leander Harwich Cup National Qualifier

By Julia Galan

The Plymouth Leander National Qualifier is part of the Mayflower 400 Project

The Plymouth Leander National Qualifier is part of the Mayflower 400 Project

Along the wharf, at the edge of the Barbican area in historic Plymouth, England, stands a portico of Portland stone and beyond it, a small platform overlooking the water. These are the Mayflower Steps, commemorating the approximate location of the Pilgrim Fathers’ sailing from England to the New World. Although the Mayflower Steps preserve the memories of the past, they also represent new beginnings.
In 2020, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands will launch the Mayflower 400 project, marking the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing. As the official Mayflower 400 website perfectly describes it, the Mayflower 400 will consist of:

…a programme of events on a transformational scale…commemorating and celebrating the 400th anniversary of   the sailing of the Mayflower. A series of major transatlantic and global events are proposed, linking our people     and communities through our shared heritage, culture, arts, sports…and the shared defence of our values. We will commemorate and consolidate the historic ties as well as creating a lasting legacy for our young people and our communities.

This year, the Plymouth Leander Swimming club, one of South West England’s largest and most impactful clubs, participated in the creation of this legacy, officially becoming part of the Mayflower 400 project itself. With the support of the Plymouth City Council, Destination Plymouth and the Mayflower 400 board, Plymouth Leander will represent the “aquatic” side of the project over the next four years, hosting an annual pool-based national-level competition and separate open water event that focuses on a specific theme associated with the Mayflower sailing. Explains PL Operations Manager Max Trebilcock, “…We spoke with Destination Plymouth and the Plymouth City Council about helping to build the aquatic sports pedigree in Plymouth through our swimming event. We have offered to make our May National Qualifier into a pre-event awareness campaign, a series of footprint events leading up to the main commemoration in 2020. We’re very pleased to be part of the Mayflower 400 project in this way.”

Plymouth Leander Harwich Cup National Qualifier: Interview with Events Manager Max Trebilcock

At this point, our readers might be wondering how the sport of swimming could possibly relate to a significant event that shaped the course of history. Upon closer examination, however, the parallels become quite clear. The sailing of the Mayflower was, in itself, an aquatic venture – and as a result aquatic events, whether swimming, sailing or other endeavors, represent the core of the Mayflower 400 events. Further, Plymouth’s maritime history and nickname – “Britain’s Ocean City” – lend themselves to a focus on the water, whether the pool or the sea. Indeed, the Plymouth City Council are also excited to host a new open water swim as part of the Mayflower 400 events. As Councillor for Culture Glenn Jordan explains, “…I’m most excited about the open water swim. With swimming being a life skill, it’s something that more people should be able to do, and why not have a mass participation swim event right here in the Plymouth Sound and where the Mayflower sailed from that will attract anyone from elites to beginners. With events like the Boston Marathon or the Great Northern Run being hosted for runners, why not have such an event for swimmers?”

Plymouth Leander National Qualifier: Interview with Plymouth City Councillor Glenn Jordan

Kicking off Plymouth Leander’s participation in the Mayflower 400 project was the 2017 National Qualifier, named the “Harwich Cup” in honor of the Essex town in which the Mayflower ship was built. With over 920 swimmers and 50 clubs from across the United Kingdom in attendance, the competition was a special event indeed. A “Level One” meet, the Harwich Cup was open to swimmers of all ages who met the qualifying standards as specified by British Swimming. As the Harwich Cup was scheduled on the last weekend in which swimmers could qualify for Summer Nationals, the competition saw many participants from such prominent clubs as Mount Kelly or Millfield aiming to make their national qualifying cuts – or testing out their times within the context of the current training cycle, such as Plymouth Leander’s Jessica Jackson, who was recently selected to represent Great Britain and Plymouth University at the upcoming World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan.

As the Harwich Cup, the Plymouth Leander Swimming team organized several special moments during the event. A number of dignitaries were invited to participate, most notably Plymouth City Councillor of Culture Glenn Jordan, Harwich Deputy Mayor Charlie Powell, and Harwich Mayflower 400 project executive Sean Day. In a symbolic gesture, they officially opened the Harwich Cup on Saturday morning – the first day of the competition – during the Opening Ceremonies.

2017 Plymouth Leander National Qualifier: Harwich Deputy Mayor Charlie Powell and Harwich Mayflower Project Executive Sean Day from Swimspire on Vimeo.

Deputy Mayor Powell also awarded trophies to swimmers between 9 to 11 years old for best performances and best technique on Saturday afternoon. These spot prizes were presented to selected swimmers based on feedback from the officials and performance against entry time. “It was a great pleasure and privilege to be here and to present the prizes at the end. It’s wonderful that Harwich can actively contribute to the swimming event as well as the Mayflower 400. This event is a fantastic way to start things off and if the year is full of events like this, I’m happy with that.”

An additional and exciting element of the Harwich Cup National Qualifier this year was the Mayflower Challenge. This year’s challenge was a “skins” event, a series of rapid succession 50-meter races where the stroke is drawn randomly each time and one swimmer is eliminated with each race. The last one standing wins the race – and prize money.

Max Trebilcock

The Pilgrims’ deep-seated faith and spirit of adventure pushed them to leave their home country and sail off to lands unknown, where they faced even greater hardships in the New World. Swimming – and sports in general – often reflects and mirrors that spirit of adventure, continually pressing onward in pursuit of excellence and experiences new countries and cultures along the way. In the swimming world, the Harwich Cup represents the first leg on the “journey” towards the Mayflower 400 goal of bringing together cultures. We’re sure that the Southampton International will continue that journey and we’re looking forward to seeing you there.
Thanks to Operations Manager Max Trebilcock for a successful 2017 Harwich Cup National Qualifier!

In the meantime, relive this year’s competition through our series of interviews with sponsors, partners, swimmers and coaches, and through our extensive photo gallery of nearly 3000 high-quality images from the weekend of competition.

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