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


  1. I have no objection to corporate involvement in ocean swimming but I do object to Fairfax a) pretending they invented the sport (like Starbucks pretending they invented espresso); b) being basically incompetent; c) being arrogant in oh so many ways ("no parking, we suggest you take public transport" indeed); d) ignoring, which has singlehandedly made ocean swimming in Sydney the thriving sport it it today (I enjoyed that last case of James Squire, Paul), e) as an old fart, having to wait till close to midnight until my wave goes off and f) getting rid of the traditional two coloured caps - I guess they're a bit dear with an entry fee averaging only around $50.

    From what I've seen so far Fairfax couldn't organise a root in a brothel and it promises to be a debacle. As I'll be driving I'll have to get there at 6.30 to get a car space and I won't get away until midday (if I'm lucky). At least I'll have time for a pre-race jog, a slap up brekkie, a massage, bit of yoga, a surf, a sunbathe and a quick skim of "War and Peace".

    Still, I'm giving it a go but I don't hold out much chance of me doing it next year unless Fairfax proves to be significantly more competent that I expect.

    Incidentally, don't you find it ironic that a paper that campaigned against the loss of the Manly jet cat and that whinges about public transport to and from Manly is suggesting we take aforementioned transport.

    Cheers, Steve Hall

  2. As a real back of the pack swimmer (ie Palm Beach/Whale Beach Big Swim in 1 hr 11 mins or, even worse, about 100th last), but definitely NOT a breaststroker (or perhaps I’d be quicker if I were) I do these swims to benefit/contribute to the fine surf lifesaving clubs. Also to show my two children that it’s not always about winning but purely participating. Sadly my husband (No. 1 support crew) disagrees and thinks any day now I’ll win my age group (40-45). I haven’t the heart to say I can’t even win the 60-65 year old, or indeed any thereafter. However, I digress. I am rather sorry now that I got involved in the hype and the exclusivity by entering the Cole Classic. Now being informed of the 3,800 (???) punters, and knowing that I ran my 5th and last City to Surf 5 years ago because of the ridiculous crowd and lack of gaining any real personal best time owing to said crowd, I’m very sorry indeed at my stupidity for entering. I may as well have just given an extra $45 to Fairfax on top of my newspaper delivery service as a way of saying “thank you for the rubbish paper all summer that was nil in content but full in adverts”. Same price but half the content. Unlike the swim, same distance but twice the competitors. Now, I like reading the Herald on a daily basis and am glad that it’s picking up on ocean swimming as a fine sport for mere suburban mums like me, but do we really need extra exposure and extra costs involved? I’ll still be next to last, still competing but possibly a bit more bruised and a bit more in debt.

    I’ll get ready for the swim, leave my No. 1 support crew to find a parking spot, participate in the swim, get my time (and hopefully some fruit and drinks unlike the water offered at the end of the Big Swim) but won’t be entering another Herald swim. I’ll stick to the ones which give directly to the surf life savers ... the real heroes of the day.

    Good luck all.

    Cathy van den Bovenkamp

  3. $165.00 for myself and my 2 Daughters to swim, as I normally enter in the last week depending on family comittments. If this starts other swim organisers to increase their entry fee to the same amount ie $660.00 per 4 week month, I will have to take out a mortgage to cover entry fees.
    I sent an email to the Cole Organisers asking about the cost of entry and perhaps a family entry fee, due to the Freedom of Press in Austrlia, they declined to reply.
    As to the treatment of Oceanswims.Com by a certain media organisation, I thought only politicians resorted to not answering direct questions and or selective editing.
    Finally Mr Organiser in this time of global meltdown, looming recesion you have ruined my Sunday because I cannot afford to go to the Cole which was one of my first ocean swims.
    Peter McCrae

  4. Hopefully there a a few busy bees at the Cole Classic handing out brochures for other upcoming ocean swims, so that inevitably the word will spread... and those newbies that are keen will find out about the ocean swimming community and the other great swims that are out there.
    Its probably a bit late for this one, but how about some brochures to spread the word...
    p.s Paul did you get your meeja accreditation

  5. People rush in with the 'we can do better' attitude but I will cite a concrete example - try to look at the Cole results via the Herald site (20 to a page long time process) and then via the oceanswims site (fast list of the total results - easy to see & scroll down). Ellercamp knows what swimmers want & has seen enough stuffups to give good advice to clubs. Keep up the good work, Paul.

  6. I started oceanswiming when raised its ugly head back a just under a deacade or so ago (wow I'm getting old) I can still remember getting into work logging on and hitting the refresh button to read all the comments and results as they came in (and trying to work at the same time). In support of Richard's comments this site is the glue that binds the SLSC together I would have given this sport away along time ago if it wasnt for the motivation and addition that this site creates. The Cole today was frustrating and to hear about the snub that this site has received from it is reassuring as is above the type of commercial ignorance seen today. I'm happy to turn a blind eye and move onto the next

  7. Go Richard,

    Without trying to sound like pureist, the COLE can get the finger from me. . as for cant get enough. . . as anonomus said above, blind eye and move on to North Bondi and Little Bay/ Malabar. . .Lets just hope there is some surf for a change. . . .

    Paul and all the guys/ including girls of course. . . Keep up the good work. . .You provide motivation, confidence and the perfect forum for people to share their thoughts and feelings in a non threatening enviroment. It forms that important part of the past swim de-breifing (Unfortunately there is no beer!! - Hint hint ; )



  8. We love OS.C and everything he does.
    I hope he touches me as he swims past at Bondi next weekend. Oh hang on .He doesn't swim. Touch me anyway oh provider of honourable smugglers.

    Jenny (Byron Bay)

  9. The Cole was no worse run than The Big Swim...

  10. Everyone knows the contribution of oceanswims to the growth of our favourite sport, and no one begrudges anyone making a living.But most people do not know that oceanswims charges LSClubs & charities $5 per competitor to use its online entry system. With some dual-race events attracting up to 2000 entrants, and with some weekends having multiple events, (do the maths) it is a bit more than "some return for our efforts".
    AND ---- ANYONE who does not use the service does not get ANY contact information posted on os.c. The rationale for this is set out in the para at the beginning of the calendar -- that "outside businesses have begun to seek profits" and that these "have no other interest in ocean swimming".
    Next Sun (Mar 8) is the Sir Roden Cutler Charities/Manly LSC swim. The aim is to raise money for a wheelchair access vehicle for those people with disabilities who are not entitled to other assistance. And for the Manly LSC.
    The organisers, recognising that the os.c fee was a significant proportion of the funds hoping to be raised, elected to have online entries handled by volunteers at Manly LSC website.
    OK --- so what is the proper balance between supporting the sport and the volunteers that really put in time to help others, and legitimate protection of commercial interest???
    Should os.c provide website & contact details but no hyperlink?
    Or should it provide hyperlinks except where it is an "outside business" as stated?
    Or can it continue to claim to be a public service website under these conditions?
    Ps I am not connected except through friends with the organisers of this event.

  11. Rodney Molesworth has simply got his facts wrong. We are all for ocean swimmers having their say, and that is why we set up the blog. Indeed, in that spirit, we published Rodney's blog (see above) even though it is riddled with fundamental errors. So let me let us put the record straight:

    Rodney claims that "charges LSClubs & charities $5 per competitor to use its online entry system".

    Wrong, Rodney. We charge a sliding scale topping at 8.5 per cent of revenue for the first 250 entries down to 7.5 per cent, for 501 and more entries. For a $30 swim entry, which is about standard these days, it means a commission ranging from $2.25 to $2.55. For the basic swim entry at Manly this Sunday of $35, it means a range of $2.62 to $2.97. A sizeable chunk of that goes to bank merchant fees, which are charged per transaction.

    This compares well with other online entry services, particularly when you consider that, unlike any other online entry service, including the one Manly are using for this weekend's event, actually brings prospective swimmers to an event.

    If you wish to verify our rates, then you can check online: go to the home page and click the link on the left, event services. It's there for all the world to see. You could have checked, too, Rodney.

    Rodney also says that "Manly LSC ... recognising that the os.c fee was a significant proportion of the funds hoping to be raised, elected to have online entries handled by volunteers at Manly LSC website".

    Wrong, again, Rodney. Entries to Manly LSC's event this Sunday are being handled by an outside organisation, IMG eCommerce. We know because Manly LSC told us. If you doubt it, Rodney, then go through the online entry process yourself and see for yourself.

    Our policy on events using other online services is clear. (See As we say in that policy, we have worked very hard over the years to build to the position it is in today. A happy corollary of that is that the sport and its events also have grown enormously. Swims rely on exposure through to tell swimmers about their events. We don't charge them for basic listings. They are provided free. If an event runs its own online entries, then good on them. The more funds an organising club can raise, the better. But if they are going to use an outside service, a 3rd party, to provide a service that can provide, then we cannot see why we should assist them to direct revenue to those outside businesses, which do nothing for our sport apart from suck money from it.

    All this could have been checked before you made your incorrect allegations, Rodney. It is public information.


  12. I apologise for any errors -- but the fundamental issue remains the same. This is not a case of commercial interests with "no interest in ocean swimming" trying to profit from our sport, but of two charities trying to organise a great swim and raise funds for important purposes.
    The fact that they have chosen not to use oceanswims (profit-making) service is something that oceanswims may legitimately discourage, but not I suggest to the extent of denying any info about where to enter. This is penalising charities on the pretext of penalising their (often generous) suppliers of on-line entry services.
    How about a compromise --- where the swim is for charitable purposes, and the entry point is the website of one of the not-for-profit organisations involved, you list their url but do not supply a hyperlink??

  13. Yes, Rodney, the fundamental issues still are the same. Manly LSC decided to use a 3rd party outside the sport when's stated, public policy was that we would not provide links as a consequence. It was their call. Their choice. does not run at a profit. We run at a substantial loss both financially and to our personal health. We are available to clubs 24/7 to help them with advice and to sort out problems. You would be amazed at the times at which organisers call on us for help of all kinds, usually unpaid, help which we're quite happy to provide. You'd be amazed at how much work goes into ensuring that entries to swims are as correct and as clean as possible. We're willing to bet that outside suppliers don't provide the kind of support that provides.

    Whatever we make in online entry commission goes towards defraying our costs. We don't pay ourselves a salary or a wage. If we attempted to charge for all the time and effort we put into bringing this service to you, Rodney, we couldn't stay in the game. That's why we also work in a full time job, as well as bringing you That means we routinely spend 12-16 hours a day on the computer screen, just to bring you a service that doesn't cost you, Rodney, a cent.

    And it's why we believe we should take a stand on this issue. We cannot see why we should facilitate organising clubs channelling funds to third parties outside the sport, but still expecting to provide their unpaid promotion. If the organising club chooses a different direction, we are not going to facilitate it.

    We have worked productively and constructively with Manly LSC for many, many years. We would prefer to be working with them now. It was their call.

    Most swims, Rodney, are for charitable purposes.

  14. I cannot let Rodney Molesworth’s ill-informed remarks pass unchallenged. He implies that Ocean Swims is profiteering from ocean swimmers through managing the online registrations and making a huge profit as a result.

    I know that this is far from the truth. Paul Ellercamp (os.c) has replied to Mr Molesworth and set the record straight regarding his charges but I would like to add that, for many years, os.c has selflessly given hours of his time every week during the season and also during the off season to produce a concise, comprehensive and well-resourced website devoted to ocean swimming. He makes very little money from this hard work and any he makes, I feel, is very well deserved. In addition, os.c takes numerous phone calls from swimmers and organisers, all of which he answers patiently, and believe me some of them can be trying. I have overheard a few so I know this personally.

    I have also checked the online registration for the Manly swim this Sunday and it is organised not by volunteers from the Manly Life Saving Club, as claimed by Mr Molesworth, but by a company called IMG eCommerce. The registration process run by this company is not as simple and straightforward as the service run by Ocean Swims. To register it is necessary to go through several additional screens and along the way the forms request information never sought on the Ocean Swims registration forms, eg, one’s occupation, whether one belongs to any of a list of occupations/organisations, one’s business phone number, etc. Why is this, I wonder?

    The Ocean Swims website is not a publicly owned website. It is the property of Paul Ellercamp who funds and maintains it himself with the income generated from the site on behalf of those organising ocean swims and those who participate. It follows that information posted on the site is entirely at os.c’s discretion. It would be a great pity if someone’s mean-spirited comments were to undermine the considerable efforts of such a generous person who gives his time unstintingly to further our wonderful sport via a website which, as far as I am concerned, is a “one-stop shop”. Imagine trying to find out which swims are on and where if the Ocean Swims website did not exist.

    Speaking personally, I prefer to deal with one organisation which lists all of the swims so that I can find the information I need quickly and easily. Fractionating the market is unlikely to help and eventually, if this were to persist, it could mean that swimmers would have to go to several different websites to find information and online entry forms for various swims. No doubt entry fees would also rise. Is it my imagination, or have there been a few rises this season, eg, the Cole Classic was more expensive this year, with little increase in benefits to swimmers? Would the level of service currently offered on the Ocean Swims website be continued by ambitious newcomers? Os.c lists all swims notified complete with contact details, even if he does not provide hyperlinks. Indeed, why should he if organisers are not prepared to support the Ocean Swims website?

    As far as I am concerned, os.c is a contributor who deserves our praise and support. So what if he makes some money from it? After all his hard work, surely he is entitled to something? If os.c and the Ocean Swims website flourish, ocean swimmers and our sport will benefit, as will the charities which many of the swims support. I am sure that Mr Molesworth is also paid for his work, as is his entitlement.

    Rosie Langley

  15. I could come up with a few criticisms of OS.C.
    But my father taught me years ago not to pick on weaker folk.

    What I find amazing are the organisations or clubs that expect recognition for their event when they choose to use another service. You've lived too long with handouts. To the credit of OS.C's generosity he still places you on the calendar and most regular swimmers would know to check the calendar for swims that don't use the service. A a business person I probably wouldn't even do this for you.
    If you are wondering why your swim isn't getting support from swimmers then you should look at what you actaully provide swimmers/customers rather than who to blame.
    Take the Manly swim.My son has a trophy on his desk for the u12 yrs at this swim. This was a great idea. You'd get a few more parents encouraging their kids to swim the 1km as well.
    If you got one extra entry you've covered the trophy cost.This year I noticed you've canned this idea.Then I look at Caves Beach and notice they advertise a $75 prize for age groups so my decision is made. (minus 2 entries for Manly)
    The age groups are wide..i.e 10 years. Save on prizes is the goal here.
    If swims put as much effort into thinking about what their customers want as they do about the waiver (which by the way means nothing)they may increase numbers considerably.
    What's more OS.C does extremely well considering his own disability.


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