Barbados Open Water Festival

The Barbados Open Water Festival -

A dedicated swim race is a great way to get your swimming up to speed. But an open water festival with FIVE swims is even better!

The Barbados Open Water Festival takes place in early November each year, and involves 5 days of swimming in the crystal clear azure waters of the Caribbean Sea, just 13 degrees off the Equator.

This year, 2019, the dates are from the 6th to the 10th November, and we have booked our places! We have upped our swim training compared to our running for the next 6 weeks as we count down the time.

Barbados open water festivalSoon after the start.

Barbados Open Water Swim Festival - The Guided Swims

There are 3 days of guided swims to start off with.

  • The first is on Wednesday 6th November, in Carlisle Bay, just south of the capital Bridgetown.The swim starts at 4.00pm.
  • The second is on Thursday 7th November, way up the west coast at Port St. Charles. Start is at 4.00pm.
  • The third and final guided swim is on Friday 8th November at Miami Beach on the south coast, not far from the famous Oistins Fish Market and the lively Lawrence Gap. Again, stat time is 4.00pm.

Carlisle Bay is the ideal spot for the first guided swim and the following races. The Festival is based in front of the Copacabana Beach Bar on Bay Street.

The guided practice swims are not timed, and all swimmers can go along at their own pace. Each guided practice swim is followed by a Happy Hour at the nearest beach bar, followed by a BBQ or buffet. On the Friday, after the swim at Miami Beach, all swimmers are invited to the famous Oistins Fish Fry.

Barbados open water festivalGathering for the start

Barbados Open Water Festival - The Races

Then there are 2 days of races, both in Carlisle Bay.

On Saturday November 9 there is the 1.5km race, which just about everybody does. This acts as a warm up for the main event on Sunday!  Race start is at 9.00am, but you have to be there before 8.20am latest for the race briefing.

On Sunday  November 10 there are 3 race distances to choose from. The shortest is the 3.3km, and this is the race we have entered. The medium distance is 5km, and there is also a 10km race. The 10km race starts at 7.00am, and the 3.3km and 5km races start at 9.00am, but you have to be there before 8.20am latest for the race briefing.

This year (2019), there are swimmers from 35 countries, ranging from recreational pool, swimmers all the way to world champions, olympians, and the incredible Cameron Bellamy, who has recently completed the longest open-water sea swim EVER, by swimming unassisted from Barbados to St. Lucia.

Barbados Open Water Festival

Barbados open water festivalCarlisle Bay, the venue for the races.


The 1.5km race starts in front of the Copacabana Beach Bar, and involves one loop going clockwise around the bay. The water is very clear, with little to no current. The 3.3km, 5km ad 10km races take in almost exactly the same route, but with more laps!

The map below shows the route for the 1.5km race. It starts at the right-hand end, and swimmers make their way along the beach past 3 buoys, up to a 4th buoy where they turn, leaving the buoy on their right hand side. Then the course returns, slightly further out in the bay, back to the start/finish line.

Barbados Open Water FestivalThe course in Carlisle Bay.

The 3.3km race uses the same course, but needs to find an additional 300 meters. The race organizers do this by adding one more buoy 75m further on before the turnaround. This is near the jetty of the Radisson Resort hotel. One lap of this adjusted course now measures 1.65km, and so 2 laps gives 3.3km.

An additional lap (making 3 laps) covers a total of 4.95km, with an additional 5 meters at the finish to give the 5km race distance.

The 10km race will involve 6 laps of this slightly longer course.

Barbados Open Water Festival - organization

The event looks to be well organized, and there are briefings before each race. Safety is the priority. There are lifeguards on SUP boards, in kayaks, and in small dinghys.  A doctor is on site on the beach in case of medical emergency. Also, motor launches from Barbados Coastguard and police are in attendance.

All finishers will get a medal, (which looks great!), and drinks, ice cream, yoghurt bars and fruit are available to competitors.

There are competition prizes for the first 3 finishers in each of NINE age groups, from 8 years old to over 65 years!

There is also a huge list of random prizes, which will be raffled among all competitors.

Barbados open water festivalThe Finisher's Medal

Barbados Open Water Festival - our training plan

We want to be sure that we can complete the swims and enjoy ourselves without undue stress. Therefore, our training plan has 2 main objectives;

  • To be able to swim roughly 2km a day for 5 days in a row.
  • To be able to swim the full 3.3km race, after 4 days of previous swims.

We need to build the endurance to do the 3,3km race distance. AND we have to be able to do it after swimming 2km on each of the previous 4 days, so we need the endurance to swim on consecutive days.

Of course, we want to keep our running fitness up too, for any SwimRun events that may pop up at short notice. So our training plan takes in both, building the distance each week and also adding swimming days to achieve 5 days of back-to-back of swimming.

We have just moved to Mojácar, on the coast in south-eastern Spain. Fortunately we have a running coach and small running club in town, and so Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are our running days. In addition, we can get lane time in our local pool on Wednesdays and Saturdays after our run training, so these two days will be double training days. That leaves Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and Sundays. 

We plan to make Friday our total rest day.

We will add Tuesdays to the swim schedule, aiming at a session around 1500 meters to build speed work.

Thursdays we have a gymn session first thing, followed by a longer swim, in the sea if conditions allow. We will start at 2000 meters, and add 250 meters each week to build up to 3500 meters. We will also build the distance like this for the Wednesday and Saturday pool sessions.

Sundays will be an easy sea swim of up to 2000 meters, to practice sea swimming. The water here will be warm enough until the end of September, after that we may need our triathlon wet suits for the final 3 weeks of training.

This program means that we will be covering  around 12km of swimming each week in the final 3 weeks before the event.

Our running will have taken a back seat during this time, but we should still be doing over 20km a week spread over 3 to 4 days each week.

Your swimming buddies during the race

Barbados Open Water Festival

After Race Party!

After the races finish on Sunday morning, the prize giving takes place at 11.30am on the beach in front of the Copacabana Beach Bar. 

After that, there's a party with food, drinks, a DJ and music. This of course takes place in the sea and on the beach by Copacabana.!

Barbados open water festivalAfter-race party on the beach
Barbados open water festivalAmazing Caribbean

HERE is a link to the official Barbados Open Water Festival.

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