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.


  1. And if people don’t want to pay the high price for the Cole Classic, then they can do the Manly Wharf swim on March 8 which will presumably be significantly cheaper for basically the same course.
    The Cole Classic was my first oceanswim in 2003 when it was still a lazy stroll down the road at North Bondi. I still remember wondering whether I was up to it whilst I filled out my entry form at the card table outside the surf club on the day before the race. I’ve done the Cole Classic each year since, including loyally following it to Manly in 2005 when (I think) the local North Bondi Classic was run on the same day.
    It’s basically the price that has turned me off this year – it has passed this magical point (up to around $35 for the Big Swim) which seems to be OK value for an organised oceanswim. It’s certainly simpler to meet brother and friends down at North Bondi for an informal swim to the ‘bergs and back.


  2. Good comments on the Cole Classic.

    I won't be swimming - with the saturation advertising there will be a huge turnout.

    I'd rather swim upstram with the Salmon!!

    Keep up the excellent support for ocean swimming.

    Steve Enemark

  3. This will be the last Cole Classic for me ....and no doubt a lot of other swimmers judging from what i heard on the beach at the Avalon swim

    SMH have high-jacked this great event and put bucks before the surf clubs which were the institutions these swims were meant to help

    The first insult was the early payment scheme....not all of us can plan 3/4 weeks ahead as a lot of us have interstate business commitments.... like myself

    I would be to happy to pay $60 if i knew it was going to the Manly Life Saving Club (i donate each year year separately to this wonderful orangisation.... so money is not a problem) what gets me riled is the percentage that will go to MLSC bearing in mind ALL the labour is voluntary

    The ocean is for us all to look after and love...... i have always enjoyed these events for their SIMPLICITY

    Let's not turn them into money making corporate events

    Phil Martin

  4. The arrogance of Fairfax Media in taking over and running this event is simply breathtaking.

    They expect the ocean swimming community will roll over and accept their terms, and no doubt a number will. However, they ignore that there are several other equally established and/or high profile swims on the calendar and for those who want to swim around Cabbage Tree Bay, there is always the Manly swim a few weeks later. Or the North Steyne swim, which takes in a little of that course.

    At the end of the day, it's the punter's decision as to which event s/he will support. If you treat the punter with contempt, expect some resistance.

  5. Totally agree with the anti-corporate-event sentiment of other bloggers and I now feel slightly ashamed to have registered for the swim...not to mention angry about the repeated offers to subscribe to SMH that popped up in the rego process, seriously bad form, however, I will give the organisers the benefit of the doubt and swim the 2km event and then sharpen my pen to let you know my verdict. The Cole 1km in 2007 was my first ever ocean swim so it is special to me.


  6. I got my cap and timing chip in the mail during the week - exactly the same chips they use for the City 2 Surf etc, and a rather manky piece of velcro to attach it to my ankle. I wonder how much that cost them - not only in postage, but in keeping the chips out of circulation for a few weeks.

    Any news on where they're getting their buoys from? As they're ignoring most other established ways of doing things, no doubt they won't be using OSC's finest, and we'll have to pick out some tiny white pointy thing to turn around.

    I should have learned my lesson last year - comparing the wonderful Byron swim (organised by people who swim) with the less good (trample for miles in bare feet through the woods and stick the finishing line right in the rip) Noosa swim (organised by people who don't swim), and stuck to the smaller swims organised by surf clubs and swimmers this year rather than those organised by corporate events management bods. Oh well. Lesson learned for 2009/10.

  7. I am surprised at the lengths Fairfax has gone to, and how its petty actions make the company look ridiculous. No wonder the company is struggling. I'd suggest a little goodwill would go a long way to enhancing its reputation. It's certainly damaged by all this. Just who teaches these guys about CSR and reputation management?

  8. The Cole has reduced the number of colours for the swim caps. The famous "tea cosy" caps have now been replaced with single colours.

    Does this mean that the number of waves will also be reduced?

    Not a good way to introduce new swimmers to the sport.

  9. Fairfax + CApitalisim. . .

    Will never support a capitalistic busines strying to do soemthing that has community involvement. Not only does it ruin the experience that an ocean swim is, but it makes for a total rip off when you get eaten by a shark. . . Paid $60 for the experience. May as well go to Underwater World and dive with a shark. . .(Sorry off topic there)

    There are far too many other well organised swims and more scenic swims that you can do than to do the Cole. . .

    You have lost me on the Cole Classic . . . Should be named the Cole Capitalist. . .

  10. I actually entered the Cole as a challenge from colleagues in the office when it was advertised and then found out about OCS afterwards.

    I have to say I am surprised by the attitude of Fairfax tbh and had it not been for the fact that I paid my fee a while back I would probably not swim.

    However since this is my first Cole and only my 2nd Ocean Swim in all I am still going to take part, but will look forward to more of the smaller events like Avalon et all.

  11. Like Tom I have received my Cole cap and chip including a very manky piece of velcro in the mail. It came complete with sand/dirt from a previous wearer. It is so worn that there is no way it would stay on even to the marshaling area. I bet it would cost me dearly if I lost it too. Another thing that occurred to me is that if I have witnessed many people over the years loose timing chips and caps in the 30-60 minutes in which they are in there possession. I can only imagine how many will go astray 2-3 weeks before swim day. What are they thinking? What are they going to do when all those who forget/loose their caps/chips front up to their information booth? Glad I'm not volunteering for that job this year.

  12. I wonder how much of a donation Fairfax actually gives to the Manly SLSC? On the website it doesn't specify and my email to the organisers sent yesterday has so far not been responded to.

    I also hope that they capped the numbers at a reasonably comfortable limit.. seems like it's getting heavily promoted by Fairfax and I'd hate to think that it is shoulder to shoulder the entire race.

  13. I had been tossing up whether to do the Cole Classic, mainly because it is one swim I havent done before. The relatively high entry fee is a definate disincentive. In the end another engagement interrupted that weekend so I gladly handed it over to fate. I will be very curious to see how many swim it in the end and how well organised it is. Its a shame that fairfax dont seem to want to cooperate with osc, its a fantastic opportunity to bring more punters into this great sport

  14. Fairfax have killed the Cole, plain and simple. The cut-off period for entries is ridiculous, the price is a joke. I would not complain about the entry fee if a significant portion supported the SLSC… but with Fairfax unwilling to comment on this, I have strong doubts about just how much the SLSC will receive.

    Fairfax’s attitude towards astounds me, and proves they are not interesting in supporting our sport.

    The Cole organisers (hopefully) took on the support of Fairfax in good faith, thinking it would help promote the event and bring in new swimmers. Sadly, it will turn many away. I am only doing the Cole this year because I am part of the Cantoo team.

    Next year, I look forward to protesting against Fairfax. I dare another SLSC to run an ocean swim in competition to the Cole. Keep it in the old style (reasonable entry fee, entry up until one day beforehand etc etc). I think you will find a lot of support from disgruntled ocean swimmers.

  15. What crap!!! I paid my fee on time before Xmas. Then they extend the entry time to early January.

    And now the site is still taking entries...WHY?

  16. There is only one way to show what I think of Fairfax taking over and doubling the fee - I will just give it a MISS this year and all the years to come!

  17. I have a simple message. It is for the cole classic. It is called “progress”.

    We have no problem with progress. Most people don’t. Because for most people progress means improvement. It means better, faster, cheaper, more efficient products. It means more choice.

    Instead, we have the cole. In an era of economic downturn, the cole doubles its fee. In the era of instant internet transfer, the cole calls three weeks beforehand a “late entry”. In the era of flexibility, the cole takes away any possibility of race day rego. In the era of choice, the 10k swim disappears.

    This is naff. From a punter’s point of view, there is nothing good in this.

    So my message is simple. It is, “thanks, but no thanks”. We’ll be joining Peter Hoban. If we can figure out when, exactly, he intends to make his protest.

    Bye for now,

    P.S. some synonyms for “Classic” – courtesy of Roget’s Thesaurus – ancient, archaic, antiquated, of other times, obsolete, fusty, moth-eaten, out of date.

  18. A couple of entrants I know have received emails regarding where to pick up their caps and chips. For some reason they're not being posted out as mine has. They have two options...on the Saturday before the race at Manly SLSC or at Rebel sport on King street in the city. How is this convenient? I offered to pick up cap and chip for one entrant who travels two and a half hours for swims, but no, I can't do that because you need photo ID to pick up your chip.I wonder how many people will have to make that extra trip to pick up their chip that could so easily be waiting for them at the start of the race? What genius came up with this system?

  19. I decided to protest against the ridiculous fee for the 2009 Cole Classic by not attending. However after the Big Swim last weekend I figured I could do with a bit more exercise and reluctantly changed my stance.

    After just paying online I am now advised I have to travel to Manly on Saturday (a 2 hr return trip) to pick up my tag!

    Why are these morons running an oceanswim? With so many really well run oceanswims on I am ashamed to have handed over my $55 to this mob of incompetents.

  20. I also registered for the swim and was advised I had to go to the city on Friday or Manly on Saturday. So I emailed the organisers (yesterday) and by this morning I had a reply saying that it was fine to pick up the cap and chip on the day. Specifically, this is what they said: "Yes you may pick it up on the day we are just encouraging people to do
    so before hand so that those who come from out of Sydney or interstate can pick them up on the day with ease."

    ...not sure I buy the reason but the bottom line is: no need to worry about the early pickup.

    See you there!

    Edwin Kirk

  21. Just another issue to contend with on Sunday. Are people aware that there is no parking available at North Head ? So therefore no shuttle buses to Manly ..... this will be interesting given the increased size of the event this year. Public transport is the obvious option but it is not clear on the website that this option is no longer available .....

    See the email reply when I questioned it this morning ......

    " It was at the top of North Head last year but we could not secure the space for this year so if you do bring your car it will be up to you to find a park.

    There are a couple of parking stations listed on the website plus there is the beach front parking but that is metered.

    We are encouraging ferry or bus transport into Manly.

    Kind regards

    -----Original Message-----
    From: [] "

  22. I'm coming out.I've done it.I have.
    Go Cole Classic-I'ma all excited.I've entered.

    I havea changed my stance on de Cole Classic.
    After seeing what a load of soft wash some swims have become I've decided to support a professional change. SMH should be given a chance.$45-$55 for a well run swim is cheap in comparison.At least you still get a good prize if you win.Some swims have gone to the extent of encouraging average swimmers over good swimmers and now look like promoting near death experiences over rewarding effort.
    Can they get those brothers pics off the site though....please. Why not offer serious prizes guys.Get some well known people along.$4000 cash may do it. Go Cole...I want a bloody plate as well.
    PS: Riddo I'll be there Sataday to collect my band. See me at 12pm please.No later.
    And did thet Pete Hoban make it or did that Fairy Bower white shark get him?


  23. Good point Damir, can we have a update /blog from someone who did the swim with Peter Hoban on Australia Day? Were there numbers to rival the Cole? Some stats on number of shark attacks, bluey strangulations, drownings? How did they handle the tail end stragglers heading steadily out to sea looking in vain for a buoy...

  24. There is NO place for corporate involvement in ocean swimming in my humble opinion. Fairfax can "GF" as far as I'm concerned.

    Its just a pathetic money grab by them under the guise of supporting a community event. Gimme a break! We don't need them. The ocean swimming community is just fine without them.

    I LOVE ocean swimming and will continue to be a committed supporter of it. But I certainly won't be giving 5c to Fairfax this weekend.

    There's heaps of events to chose from during the season. And I think if you feel even remotely inclined against Fairfax... then you're a sellout if you've rolled over to swim for them this weekend!!

    Boycott Corporatized Ocean Swims. Support the real backbone of ocean swimming and the cashless SLSC's that run them.

  25. There is NO place for corporate involvement in ocean swimming in my humble opinion. Fairfax can "GF" as far as I'm concerned.

    Its just a pathetic money grab by them under the guise of supporting a community event. Gimme a break! We don't need them. The ocean swimming community is just fine without them.

    I LOVE ocean swimming and will continue to be a committed supporter of it. But I certainly won't be giving 5c to Fairfax this weekend.

    There's heaps of events to chose from during the season. And I think if you feel even remotely inclined against Fairfax... then you're a sellout if you've rolled over to swim for them this weekend!!

    Boycott Corporatized Ocean Swims. Support the real backbone of ocean swimming and the cashless SLSC's that run them.

  26. OK..I had denough of dis cashless club stuff.
    We know surf clubs begun as volunteers keeping watch over tha beach but they now also effectively sporting clubs like a tennis club.
    They are mildly government assisted and didn't buy prime real estate they occupy.I'm all for thanking tha volunteers and really appreciate what they do.I love surf club.If I do say so myself They would be tha first to admit that tha rules for competing for your club enforce tha necessity to volunteer your services.I also be pointed out that big swims like Bronte or tha Big Swim pull in about
    $80 000 -$120 000 for the event. It's not just about rescue boats but also about all chipping in so have tha latest surf skis , boards to compete on. I have no problem with this but don't keep whining about cashless clubs.Have you looked at the P&L or Balance sheet of a surf club? SMH are not doing it for tha money.They have better way of making money.They're doing for advertising potential. CC hasn't been about surf clubs since it left Bondi.It could be argued that Manly get asmuchfrom this as any SLSC gets from a small swim.The size is due to the organisers not the SLSC culcha .Even so I say might actually become an amazing event.Go cc.
    hey cole boys..get you photos off and put the previous winners back on...
    Small cub like DeeWhy may struggle more than Manly,Whale Bondi etc.


  27. Just read your email regarding the Cole. Those big numbers sound, uh, kind of scary I must admit. If the 1k wasn't going to be my 100th open water race perhaps I might be boycotting of the event.

    To those who are competing, I thought of something that might be helpful. For as long as I can remember, the ferries have not had early services on Sundays - the first trip out of the quay to Manly was 8 AM. The timetable was changed on Tuesday of this week, with more Sunday services now on offer.

    These earlier Circular Quay departures will be much more helpful to Cole swimmers than the old running was. Sunday morning departure times (from Circular Quay to Manly) are 6:50, 7:15, 7:40, 8:10, 8:40, 9:00 and then every 30 minutes.

    It might help to tell anyone you know from the city who is looking for a way to leave the car at home.

    Check the ferries timetable here ...
    T Jim

  28. Hi,

    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 swmming 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.

    Finally, this "comment as" thing has me totally bamboozled. I know I'm just a water-phobic drug-basted old Pom but can't we just put an email address or something in?



  29. Re Cole Classic.

    I can see parking will be a problem. It always is isn't it? The same goes for all large swims at prominant beaches.

    As for 4000 swimmers well it's not as bad as you expect.

    I'm sure I've seen days at Bondi and The Big Swim where numbers were well in excess of 2000. 2200 at the Big Swim and 2400 at Bondi. The good old days.

    Remember the CC is running 2 swims. Hence 2000 per swim is not a change to swims gone by.If they split these as 1500 and 2500 then again still ok from past experience. Any other split like 3000 in the 2km at Manly may become too tight but I doubt they have done this? In any case the problem arrises at the start and at the Shelley beach bouys. Take note CC.Make sure the gaps between these are as wide as possible or there will be a traffic jam. It's often not the slowest swimmers who cause a problem but medium pacers who start at the front.

    Manly is the best venue for spectators. It will be crowded on land. Should be a good spectacle.

    DON Thong


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