The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the drowning prevention charity, launched its first Open Water Festival at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire on Saturday (26 September).

The Ragley Crawl saw participants of mixed abilities from across the country take the plunge into open water at the estate’s lake for the charity’s first open water swimming event with all funds raised to go towards its drowning prevention work.

RLSS UK director, Adrian Lole, led the inaugural event. He said: “Open water swimming is the UK’s fastest growing sport and, as the leaders in water safety and lifesaving education we wanted to launch our very own open water swim.

“Around 400 people each year lose their lives to drowning and we want to ensure everyone of all ages can enjoy water safely. This is why we organised a fun open water swimming event that everyone could enjoy in a safe, controlled environment.”

The Ragley Crawl saw swimmers tackle a one-mile, half a mile or team relay course. A Rookie Raid, 200m swim and 400m run aimed at eight to 12-year-olds was also a success. After the swim, competitors and spectators enjoyed an inspirational Q&A with open water legend Adam Walker, Greg Whyte OBE and former Olympic swimmer Mark Foster, hosted by H2Open founder Simon Griffiths.

Adrian added: “The event was a brilliant success. We want to make more events like this regular so people can enjoy the swimming in the freedom of open water, safely. On behalf of the RLSS UK I would like to thank everyone who took part and our special guests and sporting legends Adam Walker, Professor Greg Whyte OBE and Mark Foster.”

Greg Whyte OBE, who came first in the one-mile swim, said: “Open water swimming is exhilarating, liberating and it is growing fast. I encourage everyone to take it up as a sport in a controlled, lifeguarded area. RLSS UK’s Ragley Crawl was a fantastic event for the fast to first timers. I am looking forward to attending the next Open Water Festival.”

Competitor who took part in the Ragley Crawl one-mile swim, John Legge, said: “It was an excellent morning and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole festival. RLSS UK organised it brilliantly and it was great to meet three celebrity swimmers. I am really looking forward to taking part in the next Open Water Festival.”

Ragley Crawl was lifeguarded by South Worcestershire Lifeguard Club.