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Competitive Swimming at Barnstaple Swimming Club

Competitive swimming at Barnstaple can start at age 8 and is ultimately what the club is all about.

Swimmers are encouraged to compete in all areas of competition from small local galas to national competitions, hopefully the following section will give you a rough idea of how the competitive strands of swimming work and dovetail together.

Club Championships

Every year the club holds its club championship competitions, these events range from 25 metres of freestyle through to a 1500 metres long distance race.

Club Champs are held around June/July each year, they are held over 2 weekends and all swimmers are encouraged to compete regardless of their ability.

Coaches will have entry forms for this competition and will be encouraging all swimmers for these to be returned as soon as possible so as to enable the gala organisers to put the gala together.

For many this will be the first time they get to race, it is an ideal opportunity to see how a gala works and what is expected of them and also lets them make any inevitable mistakes in a safe environment where they will not feel threatened or under pressure in any way.

Devon County Swimming

This is essentially the entry level into competitive swimming where all swimmers from across Devon who have qualifying times, compete against each other across all age groups from 9 years upwards.


Every year the county produce qualifying times for all swimming events, the times are based on the previous year’s achievements and different times are published for all age groups and sexes, click here
for qualifying times.

Coaches will be encouraging any swimmer who has a qualifying time to enter this competition which also acts as an opportunity to gain qualifying times for the next level of swimming which is Regionals or what is more commonly known as Western County competition.

The Devon Competitions are normally held either in Plymouth at the Plymouth Life Centre pool, which is next to the Plymouth Argyle football ground.

Closing Dates for these Competitions are strictly adhered to therefore your prompt return of entry forms is essential to ensure that your child is accepted to race. Contact Jess at jessicahutchens21@gmail.com for details on entry forms and when to return them.

Once we receive your entries they have to be individually entered on to a master entry disc and sent to the Devon competition secretary, this process takes a considerable amount of time, so again your early return of entry forms is extremely important to allow us time to get everything sorted behind the scenes.

Selection to swim for Devon invariably comes from results from this series of competitions therefore swimmers are also encouraged to enter the Devon sprint competition which does not have qualifying times, but swimmers need to be aware that the standard for the sprints is quite high.

Devon Development Swimming

This is a level below Devon swimming; this does not exclude your child from other areas of swimming but is a further competition that swimmers can enter if they have not achieved a medal in a Devon championship and do not compete at District or National level.

This competition is held over 2 weekends in late June/early July and gives swimmers an opportunity to compete across all of the strokes and events that are available without having to achieve a qualifying time.

This competition has a nice friendly relaxed atmosphere about it, but still runs along ASA rules and is an ideal opportunity for our swimmers to learn how to race and experience the thrill of a large competition.

District/South West Region Swimming

This is a series of competitions that are the next stage up from County swimming, again we have sets of qualifying times www.swimwest.org to achieve and also these times, like county times, are based on the previous year performances.


To achieve a Western county qualifying time is a big achievement. It qualifies your child to swim against the top swimmers in the South West which is made up of the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Avon, Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Hampshire.

The Western county competitions are broken up into 5 separate events:

April brings us the Western County Championships which has just 2 age groups 14/15 and 16 over for girls and 15/16 and 17 over for boys, this competition is swam in a long course 50 metre pool invariably at the Plymouth Life Centre .

The next West Fixture is the South West Region Youth Competition which normally falls around the beginning of May and again is only open to swimmers who have achieved Qualifying times and are over 14 for girls and 15 for boys.

Following this we have the South West Region Age group competition, Qualifying times again have to be achieved and the event is again swam in a 50 mtr pool, invariably Millfield school or Bristol Hengrove. Age groups are 10/11/12/13/14 for boys 10/11/12/13 for girls.

The west Competitions also include a relay event held mid June, and a sprint event normally held in Gloucester at the beginning of July.

Relay teams are selected by the head coach and are seen as a great opportunity for the club to represent itself in the South West.

Contact Jess at jessicahutchens21@gmail.com for entry details.

National Swimming

National qualifying times are the Holy Grail of age group and youth swimming, very few swimmers achieve this mark, in fact only 1% of competitive swimmers in the country get to this level.

The National swimming championships are held once a year at the Ponds Forge International Pool in Sheffield, and are held over 8 days.

This competition is absolutely fantastic, the atmosphere is always electric and those lucky enough to qualify get to compete against the fastest swimmers in their age groups from across the whole of the UK.

The competition is swam long course (50 metre pool) and has particularly hard qualifying times, view here
which can only be achieved in a long course competition like western counties or a designated open meet.

Open Competitions

These competitions are usually run by individual swimming clubs and can be positioned anywhere throughout the season.

Swimmers often enter these competitions independently to gain more race experience, for example long course racing whilst building up to a district comp, or to achieve qualifying times that they may have narrowly missed at our normal programmed competitions.

These open competitions are advertised in the swimming times and also information about them can be found on the club notice board on the balcony and on website.

Some Local examples are:

  • Exeter Open meet held at Plymouth in early October.
  • Exeter sprint meet held in Plymouth in September / October
  • Taunton Dean Open meet held at Millfield in April
  • Weston Super mare open Meet in March / April

Team Events

There are a number of key competitions throughout the year that involve taking a full Squad covering all age groups where we compete against other squads from the area.

The National Arena League (South West)

This is probably the most important annual team competition that we compete in, it is a national competition where all 7 regions in the country have a number of divisions dependent on how many swimming clubs in that region, in the South west we have 4 divisions 3,2,1 and Premier. We are currently in division one but determined to get to the premier division.


Each division has 3 galas where all teams get to compete against each other and points are awarded dependent on where you finished in your respective galas leaving you with a league scenario not dissimilar to the football league.

The top two teams in each division get promoted and the bottom 2 teams get relegated.

The winner of the premier division will go forward to the National Arena league final normally held in April and further opportunities are available to attend this final or the B final for teams with the most gala points.

This gala is always good fun and can be very exciting to watch, the swimmers all seem to enjoy the team atmosphere and an opportunity to travel away on a coach as a team is always popular.

The head coach will select the swimmers for this series of galas based on performances throughout the year.

Dates for 2018 National Arena League

13th October

10th November

8th December

North Devon Mini Series

This is a series of 4 galas that are spread throughout the year and again is like a small league, the team with the most points at the end of the 4 galas wins the series for that year.
Four local clubs Barnstaple, Crediton, Ilfracombe and Torridgeside compete in this series and one gala is held at each team’s home pool.

These galas are for those swimmers who do not have district qualifying times thus giving all swimmers within the club an opportunity to represent their club and compete in a formal gala.

Again a great opportunity to get some racing experience and to go away and compete as a team, these galas are friendly and great fun, teams will be selected approximately 4 weeks prior to the gala and swimmers will be notified by invitation, selected swimmers will also be listed on the clubs notice boards.

Devon Interclub

This competition is an annual event held at Plymouth’s Life Centre, all of the swimming clubs across Devon converge on central park to compete against each other in an unusual gala that includes mixed relay teams.

This event is always exciting and again is an opportunity for the club to show its strength in depth.

Devon Relay Galas

The relay and interclub events are placed around mid March and are held at central Park pool in Plymouth.

Relay teams are invariably selected by the head coach, invites are handed out to swimmers plus lists of selections are placed on the club notice board on the balcony.

Masters Swimming

We have a dedicated masters section at Barnstaple which is aimed at those senior swimmers who still want to keep fit in the pool or enter master’s competitions.

The masters session is on Saturday mornings 9.30.am-10.30am

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