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Some of you may be surprised to find that there is such a thing as a Lifesaving competition, but there is. Most university teams compete in the British Universities Lifesaving Clubs Association (BULSCA) league, and independent clubs compete in a range of regional competitions, usually organised my clubs themselves. If you're really good, there are even national and international events to get involved in.

What happens at a competition?

In general, on the day of a competition, the teams turn up at the venue, sign in, and are then taken into 'security' which is a supervised area separate from the pool to prevent any competitors from viewing the SERCs (see below) and gaining an unfair advantage. Teams then take it in turns at the SERCs. Afterwards are the speed events, which are straight races between all of the teams, sometimes in multiple heats if there is a lot of teams.

So what events does a competition consist of?

In general, all competitions will consist of 2 Simulated Emergency Response Competitions (SERCs) and at least 2 speed events.

Dry SERC: This involves teams of 4 being presented with a previously unknown scenario involving a number of casualties with a variety of ailments such as unconsiousness, asthma, heart attack etc. and the team must treat as many casualties as they can in a set time limit, usually 2-3 minutes.

Wet SERC: Similar to the dry SERC, but the casualties are now in the water. They can be panicking, non-panicking or unconsious. Teams will be marked on their cohesion as a team, the demonstration of lifesaving knowledge and the quality of the treatments provided.

Line throw relay: Each member of the team coils a rope, throws it to the next member of the team, pulls them to the side until every member of the team has been pulled to the side.

Swim and tow relay: Each member of the team swims 50m before towing a team mate 50m, until everyone has towed once.

Obstacle relay: Each member swims 50m during which they will swim under 2 submerged gates.

Medley relay: Competitor 1 swims 50m freestyle, competitor 2 swims 50m with fins on, competitor 3 swims 50m wearing a torpedo bouy before handing the torpedo bouy to competitor 4 who swims 50m in fins, towing competitor 3.

Manikin carry relay: Each member of the team will carry a full manikin 25m and pass it on to the next member of the team.

When and where do competitions happen?

Competitions happen throughout the academic year and are hosted by universities which are members of BULSCA. There are some non-BULSCA competitions which the club may opt to compete in which are hosted by individual clubs or put on by the RLSS UK, such as the National SERC. See below for the list of dates for the 2016-17 academic year.

Michaelmas Term  
Nottingham (Freshers') 28th October
Bristol 4th November
Sheffield 18th November
Warwick 2nd December
Hilary Term  
Birmingham 3rd February
Southampton 17th February
Trinity Term  
Loughborough 28th April


The other type of competition we compete in, is the annual Varsity meet with Cambridge. Most sports that have an Oxford University team will compete in a Varsity match and lifesaving is no exception. This is when we fuel our rivalry with the other place and compete against the Cambridge Lifesaving Club to win the prestigious title of Varsity champions.