Flitwick Dolphins Swimming Club was established in 1991, following the building of Flitwick Leisure Centre which had a 4 lane 25 metre pool. The opportunity was seized to form a club that would serve its local community and provide access to training and competitive swimming for all ages. Over the years, as the club has expanded, it has had to use additional venues to accommodate all its training sessions, so that sessions are also held at Trinity pool Bedford, Saxon Pool, Biggleswade and Inspire, Luton.
Within four years, swimmers were achieving medal places in the County championships and 1997 saw the first club swimmer achieve a National Qualifying time. On the 24th May 1997, Rachael Mackie achieved this honour competing in the 100m Backstroke at Stantonbury Pool, Milton Keynes.
In 1999 the club featured in the Times and Citizen Newspaper under the headline “Dolphins speed to first league title”. The club became the West Midlands Division Three Champions at their very first attempt at the title!
Over the years the club has gone from strength to strength, producing swimmers at County, Regional and National level. In 2015, for example, Molly Bow qualified for the British and English Championships in the 50m and 100m Breaststroke, achieving Silver in the 100m Breaststroke and James McFarland achieved Bronze in the 200m Butterfly at the English Nationals. Master swimmer, Liz Woolner holds British records for her age group and as well as being a national medallist is a bronze medal winner at the European championships. There have been many individual successes and achievements and the list over the past 21 years is extensive. All the swimmers, in their own ways, have contributed to the club’s vibrancy and continued success.
The club has also developed a strong Open Water tradition that has gone from strength to strength since interest was sparked by Georgina Halford’s successful crossing of the English Channel in a 6-swimmer relay on 22nd August 2008. Georgina was the source of further inspiration when she successfully completed a solo crossing of the channel in 12 hours and 22 minutes on 5th August 2014.
Swimmers now regularly compete in Open Water events: 2012 saw a team take the title of East Region Open Water Team Champions. Since then, there have been many individual successes and some spectacular team achievements, with swimmers including Tyler Watson, Lauren Young and Rhianydd Jones qualifying for the National Open Water Festival.
In 2017 a team, comprising all Flitwick Dolphins swimmers completed a crossing of the English Channel in 12 hours 4 minutes. The swimmers were: Tyler Watson, Isaac Moon, Eloisa Miller, Emma Boost, James McFarland, Katie Tompkins and Alistair Shaw. Chloe Ford also completed the feat in 2017 with a mixed team.
2019 saw some of the same individuals accept the challenge to swim round Jersey. Emma Boost, Adam Holmes, Charlotte Joyce, Isaac Moon, Tyler Watson and Lauren Young overcame really bad sea conditions to win the event and did it in the fastest time for a Round Jersey Challenge relay in a time of 9hrs 41 mins. It was a huge achievement and reflects the DOLPHIN spirit that the club tries to develop.
As the club has grown and aimed to provide the best possible opportunities for its swimmers, it has provided development opportunities beyond the normal training sessions. These have included development days, led by elite swimmers, intensive Counties’ training at the Crystal Palace Sports Village and a number of swim camps that were held abroad including Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Lanzarote, where the swimmers can do 4 hours of swimming per day.
Over the 30 years that the club has been formed there has been an emphasis on “team and community spirit” and this was recognised when it was awarded Club of the Year in 2017. As well as nurturing individual successes for swimmers both at open meets and at county and regional swimming, the club fosters a strong support and encouragement network with the senior swimmers often encouraging and supporting the younger swimmers, especially at the younger swimmers’ first competitions. Senior swimmers, over the years, have gone on to take courses in teaching and coaching as well as becoming qualified officials and this has greatly enriched the club and continued to make the club successful at all levels.
The club has a contingent of dedicated parents, committee members and volunteers that ensure that the club benefits in every way. The club has its own Club Photographer & Press Officer and benefits from the support of many volunteers who act as officials, timekeepers, or Team Managers, without whom events would not go ahead. In 2020, when the country was dealing with the Covid Pandemic, the amazing support of volunteers who acted as Covid Liaison Officers, allowed the club to continue offering training sessions to its swimmers.
Flitwick Dolphins is very much a community club. Various events are held throughout the year to bring the Dolphin community together. These range from the annual End of Season Party and Presentation Evening, but also include some fundraising activities such as an ‘afternoon tea’ event, coffee mornings at the village hall and bag packing in a local store. Where members have taken part in exceptional challenges, such as the channel relay and Jersey swim, they have sought sponsorship and the community have been really generous, so that over £22,000 has been donated to local and national charities, chosen by the team members.
The club is looking forward to the next 30 years of swimming. Already there are two generations of swimmers from some families. It’s an interesting thought to imagine that those swimmers who may become a part of the club in the future may not yet be born and, some, already in the club, may go on to become Masters’ swimmers, coaches, officials or parents of swimmers!!