Frequently Asked Questions

If you have any questions regarding any of the Henley Swim events, please check below for our FAQs. If your question is not answered, please email enquiries@henleyswim.com or call 01491 577922.

Entry Criteria

Can I enter a Henley Swim event?
To take part in one of our events, you must be able to swim at least the same distance (and preferably further) in a pool, without stopping. It would be an advantage if you have tried open water swimming, and practiced in a wetsuit if you are wearing one.

How old do I have to be to swim?
The minimum age for the Cub to Pub and Thames Marathon is 18. The minimum age for the Henley Classic is 14 and for the Henley Swim Festival is 8. All ages are on the day of the event. Spectators of any age are welcome.

How do I know which wave I am in?
Each of our events has a different wave structure, swimmers select the wave they wish to swim in on entry. For advice on which wave to enter, please see the section on the individual event pages on wave selection.

Do you accept entries from elite swimmers?
We welcome elite swimmers to all of our events. The Henley Classic, Club to Pub and Thames Marathon all have a performance wave, ideal for the elite swimmer. At the Henley Swim Festival, elites can select whichever waves they prefer. Elite swimmers can enter through the usual online entry process, we do not offer subsidised or free places.

I am disabled, is it OK for me to swim?
We recommend that disabled swimmers contact enquiries@henleyswim.com before completing their registration, to discuss their specific needs. We will try our hardest to accommodate any special requirements.

Events, Venues & Facilities

Where does the Henley Swim take place?
The location and course for each of the events is different. Please refer to the individual event page for exact location and course details.

Is there parking available?
Parking is provided for all our events. Depending on the event there may be a fee to park, a suggested charitable donation, or parking may be included in your registration fee. Please refer to the individual event page for details, and check your event information pack.

Can I arrive by public transport?
There are public transport options to Henley via bus and train. As our events can be early, in some cases the registration time may be before public transport has started, so please check this out before you register.

Are there places to stay in Henley?
There are lots of places to stay, but Henley also gets very busy in the summer months so you are advised to book your accommodation as soon as possible. https://www.visit-henley.com/where-to-stay/ has recommendations for everything from camping to luxury hotels. We also provide camping at the Henley Classic and the Henley Swim Festival – see next FAQ.

Do you provide any camping options?
Camping is available at the Henley Classic and at the Henley Swim Festival. This can be booked at the time of registration, or can be added to registration at a later date. On the day camping will be available, but at a higher price to advance booking. Campervans are also allowed.

Henley Classic – The campsite used for the Henley Classic is owned and managed by Copas Ltd. Camping tickets are issued subject to the rules and regulations of the Venue.

  • The campsite opening times 2pm on Saturday 25th June – 9am on Sunday 26th June
  • There are toilets, showers and fresh drinking water
  • With the exception of special assistance dogs, no animals are permitted at the campsite
  • There will be catering options available on Saturday evening
  • No campfires or BBQs are permitted
  • Unofficial swimming cannot take place at any time
  • Your camping booking will show on your registration confirmation. Closer to the event you will receive an e-ticket

Outdoor Swimmer Henley Swim Festival – The campsite for this event is managed by Henley Swim

  • The campsite will be open from 3pm on Saturday 9th July until 4pm on Sunday 10th July 2022
  • Arrival should be before 9pm on Saturday 9th July. After this time admittance may not be permitted
  • The campsite at the Henley Swim Festival is based on the same site as the main event. It is a basic site with toilets and drinking water. There is no electricity or lighting
  • Well behaved dogs are allowed. Please make sure to clear up after your dog
  • There will be catering options available on Saturday afternoon and evening, and all day Sunday
  • No open campfires or disposable BBQs are permitted. Please ensure that camping stoves are placed on a fire resistant surface and not directly on the grass
  • Unofficial swimming cannot take place at any time
  • Your camping booking will show on your registration confirmation. Closer to the event you will receive an email confirmation, and your name will appear on the camping list held at the campsite
  • Full Ts&Cs can be found here

Are there toilets and changing facilities
All events have toilets and changing facilities.

What types of photo ID do you accept?
We require a photo id for swimmers to collect their registration packs. Please bring a driving license or other form of photo id card, to show our registration team on the day. If you do not have any photo id, we will accept a photocopy of your passport, or an image on your phone. We must be able to clearly see the photograph, name and date of birth.

What do I do with my bag while I swim?
All events have free secure bag drop facilities. Bag drop is in a static location, and swimmers collect their bags from the same place they dropped them. You will be supplied with a coloured bag drop tag in your race pack to identify your bag.

Is there food and drink available to purchase?
All events have options to purchase food and drink, both before and after your swim. Spectators can also use these facilities.

Can I bring my dog?
Well behaved dogs on leads are welcome at all events, they must be attended at all times, and cleared up after. Dogs are not allowed on the campsite at the Henley Classic.

The Swim

Do you have any advice for training?
Over the years we have been given lots of training plans from coaches and professional swimmers. Please refer to our training page for more information.

Do I have to wear a wetsuit?
Wetsuits, buoyancy shorts, neoprene swim skins etc are optional at the Selkie Henley Classic, Henley Swim Festival and Club to Pub.

If you are planning to swim without any type of neoprene, and wish to be categorised in the results against other non-wetsuit swimmers, please select ‘Non Wetsuit’’ in the results category.

If any of the clothing you are planning to wear includes neoprene, this excludes you from the non-wetsuit category, so please select ‘Wetsuit Optional’.

Thames Marathon, wetsuits are compulsory except for a number of swimmers that have been pre-approved to swim without a wetsuit. Wetsuits can be sleeveless, but MUST come below the knee. Non-wetsuit swimmers will be identified by a coloured wristband and any swimmers at the start without a wristband will be asked to put on a wetsuit.

Do you offer wetsuit hire?
In 2021 we are partnering with Zone3 for wetsuit hire. Click through for details of their monthly hire service of swim specific wetsuits, and select Henley Swim before adding to your basket.

Can I wear a tow float?
Tow floats are compulsory in the Thames Marathon. For the other events there is no requirement, but if you wish to wear one that is fine. We are very happy for you to decorate your tow float, so that your spectators can easily identify you from the river back, as long as the fundamental use of the float is not compromised, and your decorations do not cause any obstructions to other swimmers or the safety team.

Can I use an audio device or MP3 Player?
Audio devices are not allowed, we need you to be able to hear what is going on around you, to be aware of other swimmers and the safety teams.

What is the water temperature likely to be?
The water temperature depends upon both the outside temperature and the quantity of rainfall in the days and weeks running up to the event. It is therefore very difficult to predict. Based on previous years we would expect the water to be between 17 and 21 degrees centigrade.

Can I swim with my children?
You can swim with your child at the Henley Swim Festival. If they are aged 8-12 you can swim the Henley Splash (200m) with your child free of charge. Please add your details where requested on your child’s registration. For the half mile (age 9+) and mile (age 14+)  you will need to complete a full registration for both yourself and your child, please make sure you select the same wave.

At the Henley Classic all juniors (age 14-17) swim together in the first wave. If you want to swim at the same sort of time as your child, please enter the sporting wave. You will have the same walk to start, safety briefing etc as your child, the juniors will set off approx 2 minutes before the sporting wave. Please complete separate entries for yourself and your child.

The Thames Marathon and Club to Pub are both age 18+.

Timing & Results

How does the timing work?
When you collect your registration pack, you will be given a timing chip.

For the Henley Classic and the Club to Pub – you are given a strap that allows you to wear your timing chip on your wrist, outside your wetsuit. At the end of your swim, you will swim through a gantry and will be required to tap your chip on the gantry board, to get a finish time. This will be explained at your safety briefing.

For the Henley Swim Festival and the Thames Marathon – you will wear your timing chip on your ankle. For the Marathon, at each of the feed stations you will walk over a mat that gives you a split time, but the timing continues throughout your break, so the time spent at the feed stations is included in your final time.

At the end of both events, you will exit the river and cross a timing mat, and your final time will be recorded.

How do I find out my results?
At the finish, you can visit the timing team and view your result. Your time will also be texted to you (UK mobile numbers only) and emailed. A few days after the event you will also receive an email with a link to see the times for all swimmers.

Are there cut off times?
There are cut off times, and times that we need to be clear of the river. Check the event pages for details. We will do our best to accommodate swimmers who are close to the cut-offs, however we reserve the right to request someone to exit the river if required.

Are there prizes?
There are prizes at the Henley Classic, the Club to Pub, and for the junior events at the Henley Swim Festival. For more detail see the event pages or information packs.

What is an iTAB?
Our finisher medals have been specifically designed to fit an iTaB insert. If you order an iTAB when you register, you will collect your medal at the finish, and your iTaB will arrive in the post a few days later, engraved with your name and finish time. Alternatively order your iTAB after your swim from www.iTAB.us.com.

Volunteering, Groups, Charities, Spectators & Merchandise

Are you looking for volunteers to help at your events?
We rely on volunteers to help at our events, and are very grateful to everyone that helps out. If you would like to volunteer, there are a variety of opportunities and roles that you could assist with including venue set up, registration team, event marshal, food stop team, finish team, bag drop team and many more.

Our volunteers often return year-after-year, here are some of the reasons people give for volunteering:

  • they want to experience the event before swimming
  • it’s good for the CV
  •  they enjoy the camaraderie of the team and have made good friends
  • they support open water swimming generally

If you would like to volunteer to be part of one of our events, please email enquiries@henleyswim.com to find out more about what is involved. If you volunteer at one event (minimum 5 hours), you will receive a FREE entry into one of our other events (for a Thames Marathon entry or for the 4 mile challenge at the Henley Swim Festival, you qualify after volunteering at two events).

Are there any special offers for groups?
We welcome all types of clubs and groups at our events. Whether you are a swimming club, a tri club, a sports team, colleagues, or friends fundraising together, Henley Swim events are ideal for both competitions and social get-togethers. Our four events differ in style and nature, and so do the club offerings, so do get in touch to discuss your needs.

  • Discounted places for all members of groups with 10 or more swimmers (5 or more for the Thames Marathon)
  • Schools’ Cup at the Henley Classic (minimum of 4 x 14-18 year olds per school team)
  • Team Prizes at the Henley Classic and Club to Pub
  • Opportunity to host a Club Championship at the Henley Swim Festival – more information here

Can I swim for charity?
Many people participate in Henley Swim events to raise money for a personal cause. Although we cannot offer discounted places for individual charity swims, let us know via social media who you are swimming for, and we will attempt to help you promote your cause.

We do have a number of charity partners, in some cases offering free places for swimmers who pledge to raise funds for the partner charities. Please see the charity page on the website for more detail.

If you are a charity, or a group of at least 10 swimmers fundraising together, and would like to hear more about our group and charity arrangements, please contact enquiries@henleyswim.com.

Can my friends and family watch me swim?
We welcome supporters at all our events, and in most cases spectators can walk alongside swimmers for the majority of the course. For spectating advice, please see the individual event pages. Please note that at the Thames Marathon, supporters do not have direct access to the swimmers at all feed stations. If you are planning to use spectators to carry food or equipment that you need at a particular food stop, please contact enquiries@henleyswim.com to discuss the specific needs.

Will you have any event memorabilia to purchase?
Event memorabilia will be available to purchase online pre and post event, and at the event itself.

Cancellations, Refunds, Transfers & Changes

For full terms & conditions please see https://henleyswim.com/terms-and-conditions/

Can I cancel my entry?
You can cancel your entry, and refunds will be issued as follows:

91 days or more before the event = 50% refund

60-90 days before the event = 20% refund

59 days or less before the event = no refund

This also applies to additional purchases such as iTaBs and camping.

Can I transfer my entry to another swimmer?
Race entries are transferable to another person up to 1 week (7 days) before the Event. This can be done through the online entry system, and is subject to a £15 transfer fee. Non-wetsuit places in the Thames Marathon need to be approved, transfers can be made by contacting enquiries@henleyswim.com.

Can I transfer my entry to another Henley Swim event?
Race entries are transferable to another Henley Swim event up to 29th March of the event year, subject to availability. Transfers will be subject to a £15 transfer fee, plus any difference between the cost of the original event and the new event. If the entry fee of the new event is less that the original event, there will be no refund and the £15 fee will still be payable. This can be done by emailing enquiries@henleyswim.com.

Can I transfer my entry to another entry option within the same event?
Race entries are transferable to another entry option (for example a change of distance) within the same event, subject to availability. If the entry fee of the new option is higher than the original option, the difference between the amount already paid, and the entry fee on the date of transfer will be charged. If the entry fee of the new option is less than the original option, there will be no refund.

Can I swim using someone else’s race number?
Please do not swim using someone else’s registration. It is important that we know exactly who is in the water at any one time. You will be asked for photo ID when collecting your registration pack, and you agreed to the terms and conditions when you signed up to the event, regarding transferring places.

If this clause is breached, we reserve the right to exclude both swimmers from all future events.

Can I change my wave?
Subject to availability you can transfer your wave. This can be done by logging back into your registration and making the amendment.

Can I change the distance I have entered?
Please email enquiries@henleyswim.com. If the entry fee of the new distance is more that the original the difference will be due. If the entry fee of the new distance is less that the original, there will be no refund.

Can I insure against illness and injury?
We offer Refund Protect at the time of registering. Refund Protect is a membership programme which allows us to offer customers an enhanced set of terms of conditions which in circumstances outside of their control enables customers to apply for a refund on non-refundable tickets. Therefore, if the customer cannot attend their event due to an unforeseen circumstance covered by the protection, they would claim for a refund and receive 100% of their transaction including booking fees and any extras if purchased as part of a package.  If Refund Protect is available to purchase for your booking, it will show on your checkout page. Details of the membership programme can be seen at https://www.refundprotect.me/member-wording

What happens if the event is cancelled?
If due to Covid-19 or any other reason beyond our control we are forced to CANCEL the Event 90 days or more before the Event date (i.e. the Event will not take place in the same year), we will offer a 100% refund less a £20 administration fee OR a deferral to the following year subject to a £20 administration fee (therefore guaranteeing no price increase for the following year).

If due to Covid-19 or any other reason beyond our control we are forced to CANCEL an Event 90 days or less before the Event date (i.e. the Event will not take place in the same year), we will offer a reimbursement of the part of the entry fees (or a credit note to the equivalent value) which are recoverable or have not been irrevocably committed to staging the event. This is purely at our discretion and we are not required to provide any supporting evidence. By way of example, if we have to cancel immediately before the event due to weather, a refund or deferral is unlikely as the majority of event expenses will have been incurred and Open Water Swimming Ltd reserves the right not to refund any of your entry fee in these circumstances. 

What happens if the event is postponed?
If we stage the event at a later date in the same year ( i.e. POSTPONE the Event), you will have the right to take part in the postponed Event. If you cannot make the new date you will be offered a deferral to the following year, subject to a £20 administration fee, or you can cancel your place and receive a partial refund up to 60 days before the event. No other alternatives or refunds will be offered.

Sources of Information about Henley Swim

How do I find out where and when I am supposed to turn up?
Swimmers will be sent an information pack approximately 6 weeks before the event. This will include directions, timings, and useful information surrounding your event. Please keep an eye on your junk email around this time, incase your information pack is sent there, and watch Henley Swim social media for additional updates.

Is there a way I can talk to other swimmers attending Henley Swim events?
We have set up a Facebook Forum called Henley Swim Chatter, where you are able to discuss anything with fellow swimmers from nutrition and training tips to event transport.

Are you on social media?
Yes, we are on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Please follow us where possible, to gain further event info, training tips, offers etc.

Can you guarantee the water quality in the Thames?

There has been a lot of publicity in recent months over the quality of the water in UK rivers.

As a general rule, Henley Swim tests the water quality in the Thames 5 times throughout our season. Once a week in advance of the first event, and then on the day of each of our events. We send a sample to a laboratory, they test for E Coli and Intestinal Enterococci and they give a result and a grading based on the Environment Agency Guidance for Natural Bathing Water Quality.

IN 2021 ALL RESULTS RETURNED WERE EXCELLENT

By testing regularly throughout the season, we can get an idea of the overall quality of the water, this cannot however guarantee that the water quality on any given day will be of a sufficient standard. The results take several days to be returned, and the nature of the flowing river means that any water tested will quickly move on. Rainfall in the days and weeks preceding the tests will have a big impact on the quality of the water.

Whilst water quality tests provide an indication of the suitability of a venue for open water swimming they do not mean that that there is a complete absence of potential pathogens. You are advised to adopt the following procedures to minimise the risk of infections.

  • Cover all cuts and abrasions, however minor, with waterproof sticking plasters. You should not consider swimming if you have deep cuts
  • Use hand gel or wipes provided/wash hands in fresh water after you have swum and before you eat
  • Take a full shower at the earliest opportunity
  • Try not to ingest water while swimming

In addition all swimming kit (wetsuit, costume, goggles, hat) should be washed in clean water and thoroughly dried prior to your next swimming session or event.

Are your events accessible to disabled people?

We try to make our events as accessible as possible, within the limits of the locations of the swims. If you have any special requirements we suggest that you email us at enquiries@henleyswim.com and we will see if we are able to accommodate your needs.

We are working with a representative from a group of disabled athletes to try to make our events more accessible and inclusive, and to work out which requirements are most important and how we can improve.

We will also be building on the relevant topics within this FAQ, as we learn what information disabled athletes require. Please let us know if there is anything you think we should include.

Is there Blue Badge Parking at the events?

Henley Classic – Blue Badge holders can park in the area of the carpark that is closest to the event area. Please tell the parking stewards on arrival, and they will direct you to the correct area. The carpark is firm (depending on the weather conditions) short cut grass with some hard paths.

Henley Swim Festival – Blue Badge holders can park in the area of the carpark that is closest to the event area. Please tell the parking stewards on arrival, and they will direct you to the correct area. The carpark is firm (depending on the weather conditions) short cut grass with some hard paths.

Club to Pub – the car park for this event is approximately 300m from the event start. Blue Badge holders can park at Henley Rowing Club (the start). They should talk to the steward on arrival at the Club, and they will be directed where to park. The finish of the event is 800m by road with pavement from the start (and therefore from the disabled parking) or a short trip on the river taxi. The river taxi is only accessible via stone steps and a pontoon.

Thames Marathon – the car park for this event is a significant distance (1km+ across the town) from the event village at Higginson Park, Marlow. Pound Lane Car Park is close to the event village, this is a council run car park with 6 disabled parking bays. It is around 200m from the swim finish and event village area to Pound Lane car park, on hard paths. The swim starts in Henley-on-Thames. Coaches will take you to the start from the event village.

How accessible are your swim entries and exits?

With some of our events, we will not know the exact entry and exit points until nearer the time. We will continue to update this section as plans become firmer. If you think you may need help with the entry or exit, please contact us in advance to discuss how we can help. All entries and exits are manned by volunteers who are willing and able to assist.

Henley Classic – to get to the start there is a 300m walk/wheel along the tow path (hard standing). Entry into the water is usually via a pontoon or by swimming pool style steps. There is a step down from the river bank to the pontoon. Swimmers can then sit on the edge of the pontoon and lower themselves into the water. Exit is via swimming pool style steps. There is then a 1800m walk back to the event village along the tow path.

Henley Swim Festival – there will be a walk/wheel from the event area to the start of around 800m along the tow path. Entry into the water will be via swimming pool style steps from the bank. The finish is a shallow ‘beach’ area with a relatively big step up from the muddy beach onto the grassy bank. There is then an 800m walk back to the event village – the terrain here is more likely to be difficult if the weather has been wet as the path breaks up a bit in this area.

Club to Pub – the start is at Henley Rowing Club, via a pontoon. The land around the club is wheelchair friendly, there is a small step down onto the pontoon, and then swimmers can sit on the pontoon and lower themselves in to the water.  The finish is at The Angel on the Bridge, swimmers exit the water using scaffolding steps. The steps lead directly onto the terrace at the Angel which will be crowded and busy. The river taxi back to the rowing club is via stone steps the other side of the bridge to the pub.

Thames Marathon – As well as the start and finish, swimmers will have to get out of the water and re-enter at each of 3 locks (2 locks for the Half Marathon). There is a variety of ladders, steps, muddy banks etc, and in some cases up to 200m to walk between the entry and exit. We usually have walking sticks available for use at the locks, but if you know you will need them, please let us know in advance so we can be fully prepared.

If you have attended our events in the past, and have ideas as to how we can make them more accessible, please do not hesitate to contact us.