Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cool at Coogee, newd in the Bay...

Aquagirl is back, and she's set herself a new task: swimming newd throughout the Victorian ocean swimming season. In Victoria, newd means sans wettie. She did her first newd swim from Aspendale to Edithvale on Sat'dee. Check out her report on then come back here to tell us what you reckon...

In Sydney, it was cold... the Coogee people were saying 16C on race day, but we reckon it could have been a degree or so lower than that, although coming back from Wedding Cake Island, we swam through a large warm patch, and there weren't even any other swimmers around!

But the pic above was the story of the day. There were 1,169 entrants when online entries closed on Sat'dee arvo, with some 90 doing both swims. According to the results, there were 788 in the main swim and 348 in the shorter swim. Amongst all that lot, more than 100 were pulled out, according to the telly news, and more than 100 were treated, mostly for hypothermia. We were amongst them, although we engaged private nurses, who provide services you can't get in the first aid tent.

But how can you trust the news on the telly... Channel 7 called us after the swim to ask how it had gone, so they knew the water was cold. But at the end of their bulletin, their newsreader finished off the weather bulletin with the line, "And Sydney's ocean temperature is 19". Bull's bloody twang!

Not that we mind cooler water, but it is different from Sydney's norm. This is perhaps the fourth year in the last five that Sydney has experienced this sudden upwelling from the deep creating the sudden and abnormal temperature drop.

But there you go...

Tell us what you thought. Best blob this week gets a carton of James Squire...


  1. Thanks for your great site on and the awesome photos! I love to read the good humoured stories and enjoy the accomplishment of finishing the swim. I thankfully wore a wetsuit to keep warm , although I did hear some comments after the presentations that some of the placegetters had worn wetsuits in the swim... Not that it bothers or affects me but the poor punters who'd gone without a wettie for a placing... COLD!

  2. I'd like to say a maasive thank you to the life saving team who did such a fantastic job at Coogee on Sunday. Could this swim be a record for rescues? I'm amazed they had so many space balnkets!

  3. Cold? Call that cold? You Aussies do whinge a lot. We Poms are made of sterner stuff, as Strauss and Cook showed yesterday (OK, we South Africans and Poms).

    Not that I was looking forward to the journey in what was admittedly a not seasonally warm and somewhat gray and gloomy sea, complete with a churning swell.

    In fact as I waited to enter I did wonder why on earth I had paid $30 to dramatically lower my body temperature for more than an hour while being knocked around like Mitchell Johnson.

    I rather hoped that the surge of adrenaline as we rushed in would keep me warm, but if it did it was knocked out of me by the first wave. In as much as I could think, while trying to avoid flying arms from other old farts and also trying to avoid swallowing cold salty water, my thoughts went rather like this as I ran in from a rather abrupt start:

    "Why am I doing this? God it's cold. OK, I'm wet now. Must keep moving to keep warm. God, I'm knackered already. Maybe I can drop out and blame the cold. No, I'd look like a wally."

    Sensibly I'd worn two swimming caps, including a very nice, snug, thick Visy silicone cap, so the blinding headache that hit me after 60 seconds was confined to my forehead.

    But once the headache subsided after about 5 minutes, once the cold was replaced by a sense of burning all over my skin, and once I got into a kind of rhythm it wasn't too bad.

    The temperature, that is. The swim itself was a bugger, variable currents that swept me off course and what seemed like forever from the final red booey back to the beach.

    It was hard work and I still wonder why I do it, but I suppose it was fun in a strange way.

    And the thing that did make it worthwhile was the sight of Mr Oceanswims after the event, dressed in cling foil looking like he had the starring roll in a Christmas dinner. It took all my willpower not to stuff him with sage and onion and baste him in warm fat.

    Just as it has taken all my willpower not to mention the cricket.

    And on a more serious note, as mentioned abpove, the surf rescue guys did do a great job indeed.

  4. For one of those mugs who put up his hand to be pulled out during the swim, can I please extend my gratitude to the professionalism of the surf life savers. Can I also extend my gratitude to my fellow swimmers who immediately came to my aid and reminded me what ocean swimming is all about. Just after one of the last yellow buoys having rounded the island, the cold got to me, panic set in and all co-ordination just went out on the window. I put my hand up and immediately any and every swimmer stopped to see if I was okay, alerted the attention of the nearby life saver, and I was pulled up onto the surfski, to be later whisked away back to shore. Back at the first aid station inside the boat shed I was one of those poor souls shaking uncontrollably, draped in space blankets, whilst being fed warm cola. Having done a number of swims, including the coogee swim the year prior, can I just say that it was this swim that not only made me realise that once you're out there in the cold swell, you're well and truly out there, at the mercy of nature. But it also made me realise that out there, your fellow swimmers are the kind of people that will come to your aid, and it really puts the faith back in your fellow man and ocean-swimmer. And again, a huge thanks to the efforts of the life saving and medical team both on and off the shore.

    Probably as much a case of stupidity on my part - about one kilometre out, around the island, I'd first decided to pack it in. I was up on one of the life saver's surf skis, looked around, got my bearings and thought "No, I can keep going", and to her suprise, I jumped off the ski and back into the deep. I remember her yelling out to someone else "But he said he wants to keep going...!". Famous last words, and I paid for it in the end, but for me yesterday was what ocean swimming was all about.

  5. What an interesting swim Coogee was this year. While the g/f was busy winning her age division again and placing 4th overall, I was learning about hypothermia symptoms and scoring a ride back to the beach courtesy of water safety.

    First indication of trouble (apart from the bitter cold) was an elevated breathing rate. I assumed I wasn't pacing myself properly and slowed down my stroke rate, but that didn't seem to help. Stopped swimming and rolled onto my back after about three hundred metres (more or less opposite the green buoy) to get it under control and was alarmed to find I couldn't. Even treading water I was panting uncontrollably.

    Decided to pull the pin, swam to the northern side of the stream of swimmers, and stuck up my arm. Nothing happened for about thirty seconds (which seemed a lot longer at the time), until another swimmer from my 45-49 group stopped and hailed the rubber ducky. Thanks mate, didn't get your name, but you have a moustache and a great pair of lungs.

    Back to the beach at high speed in time to photograph the g/f coming ashore, and yes I did thank my rescuers.

    Lessons learnt: 1) Lots of people can swim 2.x km in 16C water but I'm not one of them. 2) There are some great blokes in 45-48. 3) Without the water safety crews, some swimmers would probably have died on Sunday.

  6. I was in the last wave so I was able to swim back to shore without getting in anyone's way when I realised I simply could not handle those temps for up to an hour. Really enjoyed this swim last year although I'll admit even then I found the water temps a bit cool. Would love to do this swim in March or April when the water temps are more friendly.

  7. I just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped out at Coogee on the weekend.

    I was one of the crowd wrapped in space blankets with an oxygen mask on after the race and I’m seriously appreciative of everyone’s help. Between hot showers and warm drinks all the volunteers did a sensational job of dealing with a tough day.

  8. On a more serious note to my blog above.

    Even though I made light of the cold water (and it was cold, even if you have a stocky build and excess body hair like me) I can understand how many people may have been adversely affected.

    It certainly increased my breathing rate and made me significantly more tired by the last leg from the final yellow buoy than I would normally be.

    And there were times I seriously considered sticking my hand in the air, not so much from the cold as from being plain knackered - my efforts to keep warm by swimming hard having worn me down.

    So many congratulations to a great water safety team and I hope all who were pulled out are nice and warm now.

    Paul did look like a turkey, though.

  9. Yes, it was cold. I did water safety for the first 2 events in a full wettie & still had blue hands & feet at the end. It was then that I decided to to keep it on to do the full swim. Best decision I made. All I had to worry about then was the swell & my lousy goggles

  10. What a great job from water sfety at Coogee yesterday & everyone that competed - congratulations. I have been calling for a wetsuit wave in every ocean swim for a few years now & after yesterday, hopefully this will come into effect sooner rather than later. After all, it is socially acceptable to wear one in Melbourne swims, but not NSW - go figure! Is the magic wetsuit number below 18 degrees? If so, why not 23 degrees like triathlon? From a surf club fund raising point of view & as a triathlon coach, I can tell you now that you will attract more competiotrs with disposable income (triathletes).
    Apparently wearing a wetsuit excluded you from prizes & I personally received a prize, so happy to gve it back if anyone is offended. I probably only made it to the start line due to the postponed start time as I was at the Kurnell Triathlon & was getting updates as I raced back which included that you were allowed to wear wetties - woohoo!!! Depite swimming in boardies through winter, I wear a wetsuit in races that encourage competitors to do so for the reasons mentioned above!
    Big morning, great day & a big Thank You to Coogee Surf Club for hosting an epic! Many of the squad members I coached are truly proud ocean swimmers after being part of either the 1km or 2.4km swims yesterday! This event holds a special place for people wanting to move from flatter water swims to the more surf orientated ones!

    Spot Anderson.

  11. No worries William Russell, for next year you know that a mo could keep you just this little bit warmer - and raises money for a good cause. By the way, had a thermometer on my watch, 15.6C at the back of the island, 16.4C nearer to beach. Ouch - even with mo.

  12. Excellent report and pics on Coogee.

    On a day when we all would have appreciated some extra "insulation", it was Peter Garrett in charge of proceedings on the start line - ironic eh!!!



    My latest pre summer training, trying to get body back in shape for the warm days at the beach landed me an email from a work mate with the subject "SWIM?"... And there it was, propositioned for my first ocean swim. So I began training in the pool in late October and with a few laps across Coogee in the 2 weeks leading up to the Island swim I realised I may be over my head here! My mate Rob 'aka email sender' convinced me to keep training and I thought to myself "well Coogee is quite flat and the water temp is not too bad".... Then came Sunday morning, how conditions had changed.
    But being there embracing a wonderful community event there was no way I wasnt gona "give it a go" as the oceanswims website informed thats what its all about.
    So shortly after 10am I jumped and took off on my first ocean swim. What an initiation!!!
    I battled on constantly comforted by the swarms of safety personel on the water. After finding some sort of rythem the slight hint of a cramp was appearing on eastern side of the island but I pushed on and to my absolute self satisfaction finished the swim in 01:05:55, about 15mins quicker than I thought possible.
    The harsh conditions, the sense of community and the love for the beach from all presents me with a new and life enriching sport/hobby.
    Remember everyone, conditions were tough and did I mention COLD? But what a great lifestyle you all live. I thank everyone that was present on the day for giving me the experience and look forward to seeing you at my next ocean swim.

    Spending the last 2 hours uncovering all aspect of the oceanswim website, I'm glad to be a follower an I'm feeling DAMB GOOD ON A MONDAY!!!

    Cheers, Simon

  14. Loiked ya comment Fingers, and to anonymous with the thermometer on his wrist, there did seem to be an extra cold patch at the back of the island.

    Spot, may I suggest that if you and your triathlete mates, want to wear full wetsuits in all ocean swim events in Sidnee, regardless of the water temp, may I suggest you relocate to Melbourne, you'll feel right at home there!

    Kind Regards
    David Helsham

  15. Great swim, and probably better in its own way than many of the more ostensibly enjoyable blue-water swims later in the season. The most enthralling part was not actually knowing if you were going to make it without having to be pulled out. What a dramatic change it made from the cosy, flat warmth of Cockatoo Island last week.

    Interesting too how much camaraderie and good spirit was generated by the shared suffering and the generous efforts of all the lifesavers (both scheduled and impromptu) and other volunteers; despite the plaudits they probably still haven't been thanked enough.

    With regard to the talk of having a wave for the gimp suits - most swims already do. They go last with the grannies, flippers and snorkels. The same basic arguments trotted out by os.c many a time apply as always. If I might, I'll append some thoughts of my own:

    1. Unfortunately, gear-dominated sports tend to attract wankers.

    2. These gear snobs love to talk about themselves, and also endlessly about their latest purchase of the newest, brightest, shiniest piece of bling equipment into which they have been duped by cunning salesmen.

    3. Keeping the barriers to entry low is the best way to keep these types of people out of the sport, as it gives them little to no opportunity to stand round bragging about their expensive new toys with all the other like-minded chaps.

    One of the things I love most about ocean swimming is being able to turn up every week in $50 worth of kit (togs and goggles) and not be disadvantaged by anything other than my irregular style and profuse circumareolo-pecto-sternal hair. It's the ultimate in honest slog with no excuses attributable to anything other than yourself and your performance on the day, and I hope it gets to stay that way.

    Again, thanks to all for a super day, looking forward to both Curl Curl and Bondi-Bronte.

  16. In case anyone missed it, the event was sponsored by Express Glass.


  17. now that was a proper ocean swim! After a gentle start to the season at Dawnies (flat warm water) Coogee came out firing. A great sense of achievement finishing the swim sans wetsuit. Thanks to the organisers and the volunteers. A mighty job.

    The best comment I heard was from someone looking at all the people wrapped in space suits in the boat shed

    "looks like a garlic bread convention"

    hopefully next weekend will be a degree or two warmer

  18. As i picked up my timing chip , I was cordially informed that i could "wear a wet suit as the water tempreture was only 16C" .... very nice, if I actually owned one.

    It was 'bracing' getting going, but after a couple of minutes it was the usual battle of man v tide. Must say, it did looked flattish from the beach, but I found it pretty lumpy out the back

    Thanks to the young lady on the surf ski who shouting to those that swam past her to "head for the two towers to pick up the buoy" - I'll certainly remember that one next year

    To the bloke in the dark blue cap and long purple trunks who swan right over the top of me at can 4 -- 'get a life' or better still go in the elites !!

    higlight of the day = giving the aforementioned "a solid drag-back"

    Low light of the day = getting on a cold airconditioned bus heading back to the inner west. Colder on the bus than at any time during the swim

  19. Hey,
    Coogee 2010 was definitely one of the best oceanswims of all time!! I finished the 2.4k with no wet suit but when i finally ran up the beach I was looking very blue and not feeling too good ... and before I knew what was happening I was whisked away to the bunker for an emergency rapid core-body temp warm up session ... I have never been so amazingly cold like that before but with the help of Sandy (the beautiful lifesaver) and some warm cola I was quickly warmed up ... so my extra special thanks to Sandy and all the whole team of surf lifesavers on the day - thank you!!! :-)

  20. No alfoil on the beach in Melbourne this weekend.....despite the 15 degree cold temps.
    It's a pity.....I love garlic bread :)

  21. Surprisingly, I agree with Spot. Having competed "newd" in the ocean swims for the last 4 to 5 years Coogee was the first swim where I wore a wetsuit (fortunately I bought one a few months ago to wear at the Bergs over winter) otherwise I would not have been able to take part and would have had to watch (frustratingly) from the beach just as I did 2 years ago at Bondi.

    As much as I enjoy not wearing a wetsuit, Sunday’s swim was probably one of the few swims where I wasn’t the one shivering and shaking from the cold at the finish and I enjoyed it (not watching everyone else suffer but just not being in that position myself). I am now tempted to wear a wetsuit more often (next week) and to forgo the very few and far times that I have been placed in a race.

    I don’t understand why organisers don’t just let wetsuit wearers swim with their age group but perhaps put a “w” beside their name when they register so they can differentiate them from the newdies and so exclude them from any prizes, and this may even attract more people to the sport of ocean swimming.

  22. Actually while we're on the topic of thanks, I suspect that the case of Squire would best be donated to the Coogee lifeguards for their dedicated efforts on the day. Would be the most well-deserved reward (they should really have a pallet of the stuff) since the similar efforts observed at the Bondi bluewater in April.

  23. ".. I don't understand why organisers don't just let wetsuit wearers swim with their age group"

    Indeed, missing out on two swims in three seasons is definitely annoying, but much less than you'll typically get called off for conditions over the 70-plus swims during that period.

    And if you didn't have the opportunity to swim down at Bondi in winter, do you think you'd have bought a wetsuit on the basis of these two swims that you might have missed out on? What a frivolous fancy if so.

    In general, I'm interested in what the major objection is to swimming with the group wearing flippers if you need to wear a wetsuit - you probably get a similar advantage from either. Is it mainly because people want to swim with their mates?

    For mine, it would be nice to keep the playing field as level as possible by not giving a 15-20% advantage to the more affluent competitors just because they can afford kit and really *need* to use it in two races over the last three seasons.

    Maybe I'm too much of a competitive prick, but I hate seeing people beat me only because they're not afraid of a credit card bill. And I'd love to see that possibility kept out of the sport -pure as it currently is- insofar as is possible in the temperate climes of Sydney.

  24. We are under no illusions about "J Assange" above. However, since "J Assange" doesn't libel anyone and otherwise makes a constructive contribution, we let him/er pass on this occasion.
    We remain of the view, however, that punters should put their names to what they say and, if they aren't game to do that, then they should not use others' names.
    Apart from that, if you don't have the ticker to put your name to your comment, then you can't win a case of James Squire.

  25. i really thought david of the "garlic bread convention" comment should win the beer - whoever thought of that has the kind of sense of humour i love! but then the coogee slsc worked very hard and i guess would have a strong case over the comedians. i loved the swim on sunday - would have gotten lost if there weren't so many people in it whom i could follow blindly until another blessed buoy appeared. one of the reasons i loved it is that i am an evil wetsuit wearer and didn't get hypothermic. am very much in awe of all the tough newdies who jumped in and did it anyway. well done.

  26. Awesome job by water safety and first aid in freak conditions.
    I did the shorter 1k swim as a "warm-up" to the main event, then withdrew from the longer swim, no way I was getting back into that cold water.
    I did notice the anomaly at the presentations, with wetsuit-wearers taking home age category prizes contrary to the directions of the event organisers .. "Swimmers who wear wetsuits will have their times recorded, but they will not be eligible for prizes in age groups" ..
    In the teams events, they got it right, so all teams had times recorded, but only teams with all 4 swimmers no wetsuits got the prizes.

  27. Dear os.c - unfortunately I'm going to have to pull you up on your above assertion regarding my identity.

    Following recent events in my personal life, I have realised that I need to get out of my current line of work, and so have been looking for other ways to make easy money off individuals with high disposable incomes.

    And consequently, I've been branching out into new ventures. Including my new wetsuit repair business, (You heard it here first. Apologies for the plug, but I do have to start somewhere)

    Best regards,


  28. I think J Assange misunderstood my comments (and my financial position). For a start the wetsuit was a birthday present so I could continue to enjoy swimming in the ocean over winter and I still continue to wear it as we move into summer (?) just as I would like to wear a wettie at every swim this season given the opportunity (except Byron I’m happy to go newd there).

    I also don’t want to see the sport dominated by wetties but if some people are more comfortable wearing them let them swim and as I mentioned it may attract more people to the sport.
    J Elliott

  29. Dr. Szell - after your deep, thoughful comments on me & my buddies, I indeed have a saying which you hopefully & objectively find as amusing as everyone else that hears it...
    Q. How do you know when someone is a doctor or a pilot?
    A. They will tell you!!!
    Looks like you have something in common with us wankers....

  30. I see Bondi to Bronte Organisers are allowing participants to wear wetsuits in all categories this year, if the water this weekend is below 18c (likely). Not just the flippers, wetsuits and floaties category,
    It's a reasonable call given the risk assessement and the hypothermic carnage last Sunday at Coogee.
    Does change the complexion of the race though, swimmers who own and train in good quality wetsuits will have a massive advantage.

  31. Adding my two cents on the wetsuit debate - I have no problems with people wearing wetsuits in ocean swims, or having them in my wave, as long as it is recognised that they do have a huge advantage over non wettie wearers.

    That means I reckon they shouldn't be entitled to category prizes - instead they could have their own category.

    One gripe though: to the wettie wearer who swam on my feet the whole race at Coogee on the weekend, please be aware that it is common courtesy to not touch the swimmer in front of you's feet every goddamn stroke!

    See you all at Bondi!

  32. Janelle from Inverell - yes the bush! This is my first time blogging and Coogee was my first ocean swim in about five years. Having trained very hard over the last couple of months in preparation to do well, nothing prepared me for my worst nightmare - the freezing cold water.

    I knew that nothing was going to stop me from finishing this swim - and I was one of the 100 who was wrapped up in foil and on oxygen at the completion of it. There was no way I was going to give in despite the fact I could not feel my arms for the last 500 metres or so!

    Thank you to the lady who described herself as my 'human blanket' - and the other wonderful volunteers - words would not come out of my mouth to thank you on the day. My support crew (my husband) was waiting paitently at the finish line and told me afterwards he had never seen me look so bad! What a compliment ... nevertheless I felt great - I had done it!!!

    Next year - I hope the weather is kinder - in the meantime, I am back in the warm pool water in the bush - training for my next swim - not sure where yet!

  33. Dr Szell,
    Loved your post, especially the comment about gear dominated sport attracting wankers.
    Reminded me of how many wankers now flock to the snowies with a snowboard under their arm, a backwards hat, baggy pants, and an underserved sense of accomplishment.

    You’ve obviously touched a nerve with Spot though

  34. Hello J. Elliot, Spot (and anyone else still following),

    My apologies, as I didn't mean to pick on either of you two in particular. And Spot I certainly wasn't calling you a wanker. In fact I was more thinking about mountain biking circles when I wrote my first epithet, as that scene presents a particularly potent illustration of the general principle that I describe here.

    And as it seems we're to some extent talking at cross-purposes, I'll quickly clarify my point.

    Following consultation with my esteemed colleaues Dr. Szell and R. Squirrel, we have concluded that the most prominent bogey on the horizon of ocean swimming today is that of technological escalation**. Of wetsuits becoming the rule, which -due to the overwhelming rapacity of human nature- is bound to occur, once the opportunity for massive advantage is presented at little or no cost in terms of physical effort.

    This can be demonstrated to be inevitable by the following logical progression:

    * If the opportunity to compete with a wetsuit is presented as part of normal waves, numbers of swimmers may well increase in the short-term as more triathletes join races - this I don't dispute;

    * Percentage representation of wetsuits will from there increase, both due to these newcomers, and from opportunistic existing swimmers who see an easy minute per kilometre;

    * Within a season or two, critical mass will be reached, in that the number of suited swimmers will outnumber the naked swimmers.

    At this point, various phenomena begin to manifest themselves:

    * Wetsuits become the absolute default, as it hardly makes sense to swim naked if one is at all competitive.

    * Newcomers to the sport are at more of a disadvantage than ever if they don't invest large sums of money.

    * Outsiders are consequently discouraged from ever considering taking up the sport. The current (healthy) growth of the sport slows.

    And suddenly, ocean swimming has become reduced to little more than a subset of triathlon, which for the reasons already given I'd like to avoid. However, I'm hardly the be-all and end-all of ocean swimming in Sydney, and this is something that the sport will of course decide for itself, hopefully through healthy debate as above. And so to reiterate, I don't mind in the least there being a wetsuit wave, just as long as it isn't allowed to subsume the swim itself.


    Roger (no-longer-J-Assange)

    ** Not climate change, although along with El Nina it probably ranks a very close second. See for an interesting discussion of the potentially dire consequences

  35. Rozanne’ comment:
    I want to thank Coogee and their team for organising a wonderful swim. Thanks to the amazing
    water safety team.
    I first did 1km swim as a guide for my blind friend Charlie. I left Charlie in safe hands in foil blanket and I dashed off for the 2.4km swim. It wasn't too long after when friends, yes a little naughty rewarded him with a light beer!:)
    Boss ladies comments on hypothermia from training manual: give the patient
    warm, sweet drinks; do not give the patient alcohol. Cheeky Charlie
    preferred reward.

    Charlies comment:
    I did not want to let on but I was very nervous and a little uncertain and
    half way through I said to myself I would never take this on again.
    Once I calmed down helped by Rozanne’s and the water safety encouragement I felt a little more
    comfortable and got some energy back. It was a challenge for me but once I
    completed I now know I have a time to beat. I was pleased they did not try to pull me out as I was too slow. So enjoyed it and the space blanket was a little over the top but better safe than
    sorry. Felt good about the time you were rounding the island. They told me that a lot of people were pulled out as they were to cold so that is a bit of a victory for me.
    I love the time. Something to beat next year. 0:41:42 only 3 minutes behind the field will catch them next year.

  36. Rozanne and Charlie's post certainly provides an interesting perspective regarding the relative import of the debate preceding it. The cheer that went up on the day when he hit the sand was fantastic. A remarkable achievement in the conditions - congratulations Charlie, I think you (and your helper) probably deserve another beer.

  37. Time to stop bitching about wetsuits, conditions and the cold, and say well done for a terrific achievement to Charlie - following in the strokes of the great James Pittar perhaps?

    P.S. Wetsuits should have their own wave, you wear one, you swim there. (last word)

  38. Bondi 18-19c today and warming.
    Looking like the natural order will be restored and there's no controversies tomorrow.
    Wetties and Fins can start in their own wave.
    My wave goes last, so I'll be kicking around the beach for an hour watching all the other swimmers head out.
    I hope they leave some fruit and drink for me at the finish.


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