Historic swimming club looks to secure long-term future

ONE of the region’s most historic sports clubs is bidding to secure its long-term future after being badly hit by Covid-19 and the closure of the Life Centre.

Devonport Royal Swimming Association was founded back in 1863, making it one of the oldest swimming clubs in England.

It is also the only swimming club in the country officially granted the ‘Royal’ title, which was bestowed upon them by the then Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Albert, while he was commander-in-chief at Devonport Naval Base from 1890 to 1893. It is believed his children from his marriage to Maria Alexandrovna, only daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, swam with the club when they were in the area.

The club is also quite unique in not only having a thriving swimming section from juniors through to masters, but also a highly-successful water polo section which has produced a number of internationals.

But Devonport Royal have seen their funds take a massive hit in the past 10 months due to Covid-19 and not been able to host sessions or competitions at the Life Centre, which has been closed for repairs since the end of the first national lockdown.

They are now desperately trying to raise money to make sure they have many more years offering aquatic activities to the people of Plymouth.

“The club has always been frugal with members’ money and part of its inclusivity is trying to keep costs to a minimum whilst encouraging participation,” said the club’s general secretary Paul Russell.

“But this has meant we do not have a large bank balance to fall back on and we have already kept our costs to the bare minimum.

“The closure of the Life Centre has meant that, when we are not in lockdown, we have had to hire other facilities at less convenient times and at greater cost.

“The limits on the number of swimmers/lanes and water polo training have also lessened our income.

“We have also lost the income earning potential of our own Sizzler Gala due to Covid-19 in both 2020 and 2021.

“So we have been financially affected in many ways and in deficit every month since last April.”

The club have set up a Crowdfunder campaign to try and raise £8,000, which they say ‘will help keep the club running and secure its future so that we can continue to develop our swimmers and water polo players and support their physical and mental health.’

They have already raised £2,000 and hope they can get close to their £8,000 target, which could make all the difference to them.

They are proud of the fact that they do cater for all ages and abilities.

“We are an inclusive club with members from six to over 70 years-old,” said Russell. “We have para-swimmers, swimmers who just want to improve their stroke, others who swim to keep fit and, of course, the more competitive swimmers, who cannot compete until safe to do so.

“We are also unusual in having an active water polo facet to compliment our swimming facet.

“The club is important not just for physical wellbeing but mental as well. Swimming is a great stress buster and the endorphins help too. Many health conditions like asthma are at least in part relieved by the breathing techniques of swimming and the non-weight bearing activity.

“Many think swimming training must be anti-social but I have always found in my 55 years of swimming the opposite is true with many a life-long friendship being formed in the pool.

“We are proud to be one of the oldest Swim England clubs and we have come a long way from our Mount Wise days and retrieving bodies from the Hamoze and Plymouth Sound back in the 1860s.”

He added: “The club is also an income earner for Plymouth due mostly to galas and water polo competitions with clubs coming from many miles to stay overnight, eat and socialise in Plymouth. We also use many services based in Plymouth not just the Life Centre but city bus to travel to events, mini bus hire etc.”

They are now hoping people will help them maintain their place in the community.

You can find the club’s Crowdfunder page HERE. 

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