Competition Guide & Glossary

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Competition Guide

Barnstaple Swimming Club is a competitive club, we ask you to compete in our Club Championships which are held annually giving swimmers from all ages a chance to consolidate and put into a competition all the hard effort that each swimmer has been putting in throughout  the year.  These Club Championships form an important stepping stone in developing younger swimmers to squad swimmers to prepare them for the larger external swimming meets that the club support and enter.  You will be notified of all the swimming meets that you could be eligible for by email but also details of upcoming meets can be found on our Diary of Events Calendar.

When you first start swimming it can seem like everyone else is speaking a foreign language, so please find below a glossary of some of the terms most commonly used:


stroke abbreviations:

  • FS or FC – Frontcrawl
  • BK – Backstroke
  • BR – Breastroke
  • BF – Butterfly
  • KPS – Kick, Pull, Swim
  • IM – (Individual Medley) – all four strokes – fly, back, breast and free – are swum in the same race, either over 100m, 200m, or 400m.  In a medley relay the order of the strokes are slightly different – back, breast, fly and free

ASA – The Amateur Swimming Association, the UK’s governing body for swimming and other aquatic disciplines

ASA Rankings – A list of all results by a swimmer in a licensed meet (there is a link to this website at the top of the swimming results – just click on the word ‘here’ on that page)

BAGCat – British Age Group Categories – BAGCats for short are when swimmers compete in a BAGCat event, their time is converted into points which take into account their age and sex and compare them against other swimmers across the country.  The points are used to work out which swimmer has given the best performance overall.

CQT – County Qualifying Time

DNC – Did not compete

DNF – Did not finish

DQ – Disqualified – swimmers may be disqualified for several reasons, e.g. false start, incorrect stroke, incorrect turn. (normally reason denoted on the results sheet)

Flags – Pennants are suspended over the width of each end of the pool, 5 metres from the wall, regardless of the pool’s length.  This allows backstroke swimmers determine where the end of the pool is.

HDW – (Heat Declared Winner). Only heats are swum, not heats and finals.  The swimmer with the fastest heat time in the relevant age group wins the event regardless of which swimmer wins the heat.  This seems to be very hard for younger swimmers to understand, but basically they just need to swim as fast as they can.

Lane order – In finals, the lane order is decided from times swum in the heats or semis. the fastest qualifier goes in lane 4, the second fastest in lane 5, third fastest lane 3, fourth fastest in lane 6 etc.  In theory this should produce a spearhead shaped race.

Long Course (LC) – Galas swum in a 50m pool – times are usually slower than those achieved in a 25m pool.

Short Course (SC) – Galas swum in a 25m pool.  Because there are more turns, times are usually faster than those achieved in long course events.

One start rule – swimmers are disqualified if they start before the referee sounds the horn or whistle.

Over the top start – swimmers sty in the water until the next race has started.

Personal Best (PB) – The best time achieved by a swimmer in a particular event.

Splits – The times from each race are broken down into 25m or 50m chunks, which enables swimmers to see how they paced a race.

Qualifying Times (QT) – This is the minimum time you must have achieved in any given event in order to enter a meet.  You must have swum faster or equalled the times in your age groups.  QT’s are age specific – normally age at end of year.

  • Upper Qualifying Time (LQT) – This is the slowest time a swimmer can have to enter a specific race.  Anyone with a slower time is not able to enter the event.
  • Upper Qualifying Time (UQT) – This is the fastest time a swimmer can have to enter a specific race.  Anyone with a faster time is not able to enter the event.

Types of Competition

County Championships – known as the Devon’s – held normally once a year over three weekends in Jan, Feb/March with the longer distance in April.  You need to have achieved County Qualifying Time to be eligible.

Regional Championships – known as the Westerns – South West Championships.  Again Qualifying times need to be achieved to enter these events

Level 3 Meets – these are meets which are run throughout the year, they are relatively easy meets to gain qualifying times for events.  Usually there is no lower cut off time.  These are aimed at swimmers aiming towards County and Regional Qualifying ties.  Swimmers who fit this level are encouraged to enter these competitions.

Level 2 Meets – these are meets that have a higher qualifying tie and are focused at those who are aiming to achieve regional and national qualifying times.

Level 1 Meets – these are long course meets, focused to those swimmers achieving regional and national times.

Arena League Competition – The club also enters this event as a team and the coach will select a team for this event and will email all those selected to compete.  If you are selected please confirm your acceptance asap.  For these competitions as a team, coach travel is normally provided for a small fee and is a great gathering and great comaraderie amongst the team.  The competitions run on the second saturday in October, November and December, further information can be found on the Diary of Events Calendar.