Friday, January 30, 2009

The Cole Classic - Lessons from the past

A note from Richie Stewart, organiser of The Big Swim, Palm Beach to Whale Beach ...

Taking the link off the Cole Classic site to oceanswims dot com indicates there is a lack of history and knowledge or perhaps faded memories on just what the ocean swims web site has done for ocean swimming and all participants.

Whale Beach Surf Club held the first ocean swim in 1974. A few years later, Mona Vale SLSC started up and ocean swims appeared on the calendar of surf clubs generally in the Sydney metropolitan area.

Advertising our event was difficult, the media were generally not interested in the small (but growing) sport of ocean swimming, so we handed out pamphlets at each other's swims, stuck posters in the local shops from whom we sought prizes and generally had immense difficulty in signing up sponsors for our swims.

The sport was unknown and unacknowledged. Sponsors were few and funding difficult.

Generally swim organisers relied on a local shop or business or a contact from within our club. The Cole Classic started at North Bondi some years after the Palm Beach to Whale Beach swim and over the years a fraternity of ocean swim organisers/race directors has developed.

Along came ocean swims dot com in 1999 and the fragmented individual ocean swims were glued together with a common source of information. Potential sponsors could evaluate the size and scope of the sport.

Following every swim, a comprehensive report and results are posted on the site and all were able to again enjoy the experience of last weekend's swim, photos, text with a lot of good natured fun.

After years of manual striving, finally organisers were able to connect with all swimmers interested in finding out where swims were to be held. Then, on-line entry came along. All through the innovative efforts of oceanswims dot com.

Following the break from Nth Bondi, I attended a swim organisers meeting from where ocean swims dot com introduced Manly to the Coles as the new site for Cole Classic.

It is right to remember that first/start up swims are given full publicity by ocean swims dot com, free and available, instantly connecting a new swim with the entire ocean swimming community.

Ocean swims dot com noted there are probably many new ocean swimmers entered in the Cole this Sunday. For their sake, and for those whose memories have faded, I trust there are many new ocean swimmers who will understand and respect the pivotal role ocean swims dot com have made in the development and promotion and incredible growth of ocean swimming, the community involvement, and the funding for charities including surf life saving clubs, cancer reseach etc.

We all owe a debt of gratitude and appreciation to the oceanswims web site.

Perhaps after Sunday's swim, those new to this wonderful sport will be motivated to continue ocean swimming and be challenged to enter one of the "Journey Swims", from beach to beach (Palm Beach to Whale Beach and Bondi to Bronte for example) in the open ocean.

To be told to "check with your local surf club, as the Herald does on its Cole website, suggests we may well be experiencing an unwanted wind of change in our wonderful sport.

I certainly hope not. First and foremost, ocean swims are there for the community to enjoy, for charities' bank accounts to be helped and for the community of swimmers and non swimmers to participate in a healthy enjoyable sport.

Ocean swims dot com is the link, the common bond that ties all of these together.

Richard Stewart
Hon. Secretary
Whale Beach SLSC Incorporated
Race Director
The Big Swim

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hahn Super Dry Fine Ocean Swimmers Series 2009

Several swimmers have queried the results of The Big Swim last Sunday, particularly the inclusion in the results of handicap times and points in the Hahn Super Dry Fine Ocean Swimmers Series 2009. So here is what it's all about ...

The Big Swim was the first of nine swims in the Hahn Super Dry Fine Ocean Swimmers Series 2009. The series runs over nine swims throughout the rest of the season. It's a pointscore series that uses a handicap system to even the playing field between the sexes and amongst the ages. We talked about it in our emailout last week, and we will again this week, too. Swimmers last year would recall the inaugural series in 2008. The objective is to encourage swimmers to take part in more swims, to promote new and country swims, and to provide a structure over the season to help you work on another goal.

Points are awarded for each swim in the series in which you take part. The more swims you do, the more points you get. We don't take just the best five, for example. But you must do 5 of the 9 swims to qualify, and two of those swims must be in the country. We'll have more details on in the coming days.

In this series, we take each swimmer’s time and factor in a weighting for age and sex to produce a handicap time, then allocate points accordingly. From the handicap times, we produce what’s known as the Dezzie, which is the ratio between your time and the winner’s time. From the Dezzie, we produce the points out of 100. Thus the winner, with a Dezzie of 1, gets 100 points. If you had a Dezzie of 1.906, which means your time was almost twice the winner’s time, for example, you get points accordingly. In this way, every swimmer gets points according to how they performed relative to the winner. You’re not necessarily pushed down the list because a lot of people might have finished ahead of you.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Big day for Big Swim ...

What a big day ... Palm Beach to Whale Beach really was a Big Swim! Longer at about 2.9km, coming in at the south end of Whale Beach, a real ocean to swim, into a sou'-east swell bouncing off Little Head, we were pitching and rolling in the sea, mid-Atlantic-like, then coming in over an at times difficult break onto a sand bank and into a rip, the peloton dragged north like a string of flags in the wind ...

Tell us what you thought ... a carton of James Squire for the best blog this week ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Etiquette - Code of Conduct for ocean swimming ...

There's a debate going on about behaviour in ocean swims. Read John Bamberry's suggested code (click here), and check out Nicky Pullen's own suggestion of a code of principles (click here, too) ...

Then, tell us what you think ...

When you leave your comment, please leave your name ... click the Comment as drop down menu and choose Name/URL -- just leave your name.

The Big Swim - Hi-tech cossies ruling

The organisers of The Big Swim, Palm Beach to Whale Beach, this weekend have made this change to their rules ...

"Swimmers must wear only conventional swimming costumes made from lycra and/or nylon and/or polyester. Costumes must contain no neoprene or any other 'high-tech' material or substance or any material with any flotation support. Male swimmers must wear only briefs with no arms, legs or any part of the costume covering their body above the waist. Female swimmers must wear either one or two piece costumes with no arms or legs.

The objective of this rule is to provide a level playing field for swimmers, in which swimmers do not feel the need to use expensive 'high-tech' costumes in order to be competitive, and to confirm that wetsuits are not permitted in competition."

As more than 600 swimmers already have entered The Big Swim under the previous rules, the organisers urge all swimmers to observe this new ruling this weekend as a matter of fair play. It will become a regular condition of The Big Swim rules in subsequent seasons.

This rule is not intended to prevent swimmers wearing conventional rashies or stinger suits for protection from sun and/or stingers, provided those suits aren't made of the materials referred to above.

Since we publicised this ruling in our emailout to NSW ocean swimmers on Monday, January 19, The Byron Bay Swim Classic has made a similar ruling, adopting the same wording as The Big Swim.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mona Vale, Portsea, Marion, Perth ...

Well, how did you go on the weekend? Swims all around Stray'a ... tell us what you thought ...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Strange behaviour from the Cole Classic ...

Here is an excerpt from our latest newsletter to NSW ocean swimmers ...

We've told you earlier about our quest to encourage Fairfax Media Pty Ltd, the new proprietors of The Cole Classic, to tell swimmers that there are other swims on in NSW, and how they might find out about them. At the outset, the only reference the Cole website had to the rest of the sport of ocean swimming, which at last count offered c. 102 swims -- two new ones came to us just in the past couple of days -- was to cross-promote the Bondi-Bronte swim, which is run by a Fairfax contractor. Indeed, their report of Bondi-Bronte in The Sydney Morning Herald the following day actually said that the next ocean swim in Sydney was the Cole on February 1. We raised this with them at the time and, on the Tuesday, they published a clarification, after a grudging exchange of emails with the reporter who wrote the story, conceding that there were 17 swims in NSW between Bondi-Bronte and the Cole, eight of them in Sydney.

Fairfax Media came in for a bit of criticism at the outset, too, over steep rises in the Cole's entry fees and in the early cutoff for earlybird entries, originally December 19 later extended to January 9, still 23 days ahead of swim day.

As a result of our representations, Fairfax Media posted a link to on their Cole Classic website and a reference to the fact that there are other swims in NSW and that you could find out about them through The link was hard to find, mind you -- 2nd question down in the FAQ section. When they posted the link, Fairfax Media's head organiser, Angus Dillon, asked us, now they had posted the link, what (net worth negative, ie in debt) was prepared to give Fairfax Media (market capitalisation $2.506 billion at 1151 AEDT on Thursday, January 15, but dropping) in return. We already had a link to the Cole, and it remains in place.

Now, sadly and without warning, Fairfax has taken down their link to In place of it, they ask the question (in their FAQ section), "Are there other swims I can do as training?", and they answer, "Yes there are many other swims across the summer period. For further information on swims in your area contact your local surf life saving club."

This might be ok if the surf life saving club you ask a) is one of those who conduct an ocean swim thus they might know something about them (about half Sydney surf clubs run ocean swims), and b) the person who answers the phone when you call, or whom you run across in the club foyer when you enter, happens to know something about them, too.
Neither is a given. In short, Fairfax Media has removed any meaningful assistance they previously provided, minimal as it was, to new swimmers to find out more about the sport. In doing so, they undermine any claims they make that they aim to help the sport of ocean swimming overall. Now, Fairfax Media is just another commercial swim organiser running a swim, if not to make a profit, then not to lose any money. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we don't take seriously Fairfax's claims of altruism towards the sport overall.

Why have they done this? We emailed Angus Dillon to find out. He hasn't responded.

Now, a couple of other aspects of the Cole's administrative arrangements that you probably should know about ...

1. If you enter the Cole Classic but fall ill or get injured before swim day, you can get a 50 per cent refund of your entry fee, which ranges from $35 up to $110 (if you enter both 2km and 1km swims by mail after January 9). But only if you provide a medical certificate, and only if you provide that medical certificate by close of business tomorrow, Friday, January 16. The message is: if you get sick or injured in the next 16 days, don't expect Fairfax Media to sympathise.

2. If you wish to switch your events between the 2km swim and the 1km swim, you can, but only on swim day and for a fee, which Fairfax Media doesn't specifiy.
We're looking forward to the Cole Classic on February 1. We expect they'll have a big roll up, particularly of new swimmers. Let's hope it all goes well for all concerned.

In the meantime, ocean swimmer Pete "Joliet Jake" Hoban plans on going for a swim at Manly on Australia Day, Monday, January 26, at 10am, in which he'll swim across to Fairy Bower point, then into Shelley Beach, then back around Manly Point to the surf club, in other words tracing the course of the Cole Classic. It's not a formal or an organised swim, but you're all welcome to join him. And maybe even drop $5 or $10 into the bucket for Manly LSC as a donation afterwards.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Noahs: Plague or just bad press?

We've just had an enquiry from a father whose daughter wants to become an ocean swimmer but has been worried about sharks, with all the bad press they're getting lately. Below is our response.

What do you think?

No-one can give an absolute guarantee of safety because no-one knows what really is going to happen out there. But that is one reason we swimmers do it. Let me just say that the numbers of swimmers continues to climb steeply, particularly over the last few weeks, and that there has never been an issue with sharks in any swim I have done (numbering in the hundreds), that there are so many people in swims there is safety in numbers and in the escort craft buzzing around, that the media routinely overplay these issues, especially in the silly-season of high summer, when there isn't much else going on.

There is some risk but, as ocean swimmers, we don't perceive it to be any greater than in previous years.

Let me also say that there are many, many sharks out there. There are lots in Cabbage Tree Bay at Manly, for example, particularly juvenile whalers, wobbies and Port Jacksons, and the odd other kind from time to time. But there has never been a problem. There was an issue during the Cole Classic 10km swim three or four years back when they called off the swim, but that swim, at that time, was 400m off North Head. Hardly surprising there might be things out there. We also had one circle one of our swimmers on the way from Bondi to Watsons Bay a few years back, but that was 1km off Macquarie Lighthouse. No surprise out there, either. But there has never been a problem with swims run off beaches. (They sight them sometimes during the Rottnest Channel swim off Perth).

We have seen no evidence that there are any more sharks around now than at any other time. The vast majority of sharks, in any case, are not problems. It's just a few varieties that are. It's actually quite exciting and fascinating to watch them, when you do see them, in their natural environment, as distinct from an aquarium?


Monday, January 12, 2009

Third Umpire?

I had a particularly good stage Mckenzie's Headland to Icebergs in yesterday's Rough Water because of the "third umpire". Wondering where the heck to go to find the next mark after turning at McKenzie's, I heard a board paddler say: "Head for the tall building - the hotel". Which I did and sailed straight to the mark while those ahead went south.

The North Bondi Surf Club boys were on the job throughout, directing traffic and creating a relatively narrow corridor for swimmers. It meant even the navigational drongos got it right. Is this a good thing? I think not. Spot Anderson babbles on ad nauseam trying to convince us trainees to navigate: swim straight to the buoys. He goes on and on and on about it. And he's right: you can transform your day with a bit of navigation.

The thing is, when you're busting for air, aching all over and suffering spears of shark-attack terror, it takes something to assemble your mind to really navigate. It's a wonderful part of the mental struggle of ocean swimming and it should be left to competitors to sort it out, not the "third umpire".

Bill Macartney

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lorne, Avalon, North Bondi, Hawks Nest

Got something to say about Lorne, Avalon, North Bondi or Hawks Nest on Sunday, January 11? Hit the Comments button below and post your blog now ...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where have all the blueys gone?

In recent emailouts, we've posed the question: where have all the blueys gone?

Generally, by this time of the season, we've had a couple of bluebottle plagues, casualties and whingers all over the place. This season, however, apart from two dead'uns we saw on the beach at Queenscliff the Sunday before Xmas, we have see nothing.


Surely some people have had bluey experiences. But we're not amongst them. What would ocean swimming be without our fear of blueys, that at any point, on any stroke, we could suddenly feel that searing, piercing pain shoot through our nervous systems. Doesn't bother us, of course. We're men.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bleedback - Gerringong

Shaun Clyne writes on the Capt. Christie Classic at Gerringong last Sunday, Jan 4 ...

A great swim in testing conditions.

One disappointing aspect that I witnessed was organisers turning away 8-10 swimmers seeking to register at 9.05am on the basis that registrations closed at 9am and there were "no exceptions". A very strange position to adopt given that this not only denied the Gerringong Surf Club circa $250 in revenue, but particularly as the manual registration process involved nothing more than writing a swimmer's name on a piece of A4 paper next to which their time would eventually be recorded.

Several of these swimmers had travelled from Sydney for the swim and ultimately decided to swim it 'unofficially' anyway - with the added insult that the rigid approach to the close of registrations at 9am was not matched with an equally rigid approach to a 10am start time for the swim.

As a 'country swim' seeking to attract swimmers from Sydney, it would be better if the organisers could adopt a more flexible approach to registrations (such as the use of online registrations) so as to encourage participation rather than an approach which is entirely inconsistent with the culcha of ocean swimming.

Shaun Clyne

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hi-tech cossies -- Whither are we drifting?

There is plenty of debate about whether hi-tech cossies, such as fastskins, and wetties should be allowed in ocean swimming. There are no hard and fast rules in this sport, just as there are no rules that extend across the entire sport. Whether hi-tech suits should be banned is a matter for individual swim organisers and for swimmers to express their views.

One major swim is considering banning all cossies except for conventional styles -- traditional budgy smugglers for blokes, and one or two piece cossies with no arms or legs for the laydees. They are working on the wording.

Even Australian Swimming has recognised this issue by banning hi-tech suits for junior and age group competition.

We believe the argument should be about keeping as flat a playing field as possible. Allowing hi-tech suits in ocean swimming means that all swimmers who wish to be "competitive" will have to fork out the hundreds of dollars required to buy one of these suits. Even if the wish only to be competitive in their age group, they will feel the need to spend the money. This will raise the entry cost to ocean swimming as a sport. To be an ocean swimmer now, all you need is a pair of cossies and maybe a pair of goggles. That's it. Well under $100. If you have to buy a fastskin, then you're talking about something under $1,000. Then where does it stop?

The vast majority of swimmers take part in our sport for the sake of being part of it, not to get the latest hi-tech gear to seek the ultimate micro-advantage over their competitors. That's the route triathlon has taken. We would rather see ocean swimming remain relaxed, not become ever more expensive and anal.

Similar arguments apply in NSW, Queensland and WA to wetsuits. Not in Victoria, where wetties are de rigeur. The debate there probably is lost, although some hopeless romantics -- we are their fellow travellers -- continue to wage a quixotic battle.

By the way, we have no problem with swimmers wearing these suits if they wish. Some people genuinely feel the cold. But they should not be allowed to count in open or age group company.

What do you think? Post your response here and/or vote in the poll at left.