Two hospital clinicians become world record holders at Winter Swimming World Championships

From swimming in the River Witham to breaking a world record in Estonia, it has been quite the journey for two hospital clinicians.

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Nicola Housam and Frances Mills, have returned from the Winter Swimming World Championships after helping to break a world record.

They swapped the corridors of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust for the freezing cold of outdoor swimming in the Estonian capital Tallinn, from Monday 4 to Sunday 10 March 2024.

They participated in the front crawl relay alongside 805 other swimmers, securing a world record for the largest ever winter swimming relay which lasted more than seven hours.

The water temperatures fell to as low as 0.5 degrees. The Baltic Sea swimming lanes froze over most mornings so volunteers had to swim to break the ice which was then gathered up before the swimming could start. All swimming was done in a normal swimsuit in accordance with the rules of the Winter Swimming World Championships.

The pair also achieved personal bests for their swims. Nicola, an Advanced Clinical Practitioner in Dermatology, finished 16th in the world in the 25m breast stroke and 11th in the 50m breast stroke. Frances, a Specialist Family Practitioner, competed in the 25m front crawl and achieved her own personal best.

They are both founding members of the Boston Bluetits Chill Swimming club, while also being regulars at Boston’s Park Run. They were part of a team of Bluetits from all over the world who travelled together for the competition.

Nicola managed to convince her husband to take part in the world record attempt. The Bluetits were invited as guests to the British Embassy and even got the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Estonia, Ross Allen, to complete a leg.

Nicola said: “We had an amazing time. The cold water seemed to make everyone closer. The adrenaline kept us going.

“Our Bluetit team of over 60 from around the world has done the community proud. We were ‘rent a crowd’ for countries that had small support, we cheered on everyone taking part – from the elite crews to the give-it-a-go crews. The atmosphere was amazing.

“I never thought that when I set up the Boston Bluetits I would help so many people meet each other and make friends. I never thought we’d break a world record either!”

Over 40 countries, from Mongolia to the USA, took part in the bi-annual world championships. Nicola said Estonia embraced them with open arms.

Frances added: “The colder the water, the deeper the friendship. The Bluetits is an amazing, uplifting and truly inclusive community. There is something very special about open water swimming. The laughing and sharing of hot water bottles, woolly bobble hats and a hot flask after a swim in five-degree water changes your day.

“It is good for the heart and soul to be surrounded by swimmers from across the globe doing something that we all love, and it’s great to break a world record too.”

The pair had such a good time that they are already planning their trip to the next Winter Swimming World Championships in Finland in 2026.