Monday, January 31, 2011

Cole Classic... here we go again...

The Cole Classic is this weekend, the third outing of this event under the ownership of Fairfax Meeja. And we expect to be welcoming a whole lot of new ocean swimmers as a result, and that's terrific. But every year, we have a whinge about how we believe Fairfax Meeja diss the ocean swimming community, and every year, we get the odd few people whingeing back at us for our whingeing in the first place. These issues remain, however, and we feel we have a duty, as the unofficial meeja outlet of ocean swimming, to point out a few things. Heaven forbid, if we didn't do it, all these new swimmers whom Fairfax are bringing into our sport -- and we acknowledge that they bring in lots every year -- well, if we didn't point out some truths, then all these new swimmers would think the treatment they get from Fairfax is common to the sport, when it's not. The only result of our whingeing to date, however, is that Fairfax won't play speaks with us, and by and large their dissing and ignorance of the ocean swimming community continues.

This blob now is prompted right now by the imminence of this year's Cole, next weekend, and by the news that Fairfax Meeja now have taken on a "new" event -- new for them -- at Dee Why, where they seem to be perpetuating many of their existing practices. The third prompter is an email we received today from David Collins, who wrote to Fairfax yesterday, thus,
    I have just broken my wrist and cannot compete in the Cole this year. Can I transfer my registration to another person? If not, is a refund available?
Seems a reasonable request to us. Most swims automatically would allow a refund, especially seven days ahead of the event. We do this all the time in cases of genuine need and, often, when swimmer's circumstances change and they cannot make a swim for which they've entered and paid. Generally, we retain a small admin fee to cover bank transaction fees for two transactions (payment and refund). Anyway,  Fairfax's "Natasha" responded to David...
We are very sorry to hear that you will no longer be able to participate. Unfortunately, was have passed the cut off for a medical refund.
Then Natasha appears to cut and paste a section of the Cole Classic's FAQs...
    "Can I get a refund or Transfer my registration?

    There are no refunds or transfers for this event. If you have an injury that prevents you from swimming, a medical certificate may be submitted for a refund of 50%. This can only be done up until 5pm on Friday, January 14, 2011."
David is not the first one to be disadvantaged by this policy of whom we're aware, but it's sad and a reflection on the Fairfax organisation that they are so unsympathetic to the plight of people in his position. It's not as if, after all, David planned to break his wrist right now and contrived to seek the refund. The matter is even worse when you consider that "earlybird" entries to the Cole's main event are $49, and $59 in the final several weeks. Fairfax are making a fortune out of the Cole and give very little to charity in return. They trumpet their support for charity, but most of their support is to encourage entering swimmers to raise funds themselves to donate. Fairfax themselves donate very little, indeed nothing that we're aware of apart from a $25,000 donation to Manly LSC for providing course layout and water safety services on the day. In the meantime, Fairfax are raising something in the area of $200,000 from entry fees alone, never mind sponsorship, and that's a conservative estimate.

It's hard to know how much precisely they make, and how much they may pay to various organisations and individuals for various things, because they don't publish their accounts. Indeed, we went through Fairfax's annual report last year to see what we could find, and we couldn't even find the Cole Classic mentioned, or any of their other highly lucrative events.

Apart from exorbitant entry fees and unreasonable requirements for "early bird entry" -- swims are not runs: New South Head Rd does not change in wild and windy weather, whereas the ocean does, and swimmers like/need to better assess conditions closer to swim time before deciding whether to enter -- they also do questionable things like require you to pick up your "Race Pack" in the city on the Friday ahead or at Manly on the day ahead (early, early entrants have theirs mailed out to them). What this means is that swimmers are inconvenienced by having to make a trip across town, probably two trips in two days, just to get their chips.

There is a worrying corollary to this: by distributing chips in advance and not providing on-day registration, Fairfax Meeja has absolutely no idea who enters the water on race day. Thus they have no idea whether all swimmers make it back to the beach safely. We remain amazed that their insurers let them get away with this. We regard that as an unsafe practice.

There are many other matters that we would raise, but ...

But if you have problems, issues with the Cole Classic, then this is the place to vent them. Often, it helps just to be able to have your say.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Big Swim, the Bloody Big Swim, Queenscliff, etc...

It's the season's peak... Aquagirl and DolphinJo snagged 1st by 16 minutes in the Bloody Big Swim in Melbourne, Kaosvic bought books then lunch after swimming by Queenscliff pier, and on Sundee, a few hours into the future, over 1,700 swimmers will swim Palm-Whale. It is the season's peak.

Tell us about it... what was good about the swims, and what was bad about them... what happened to you?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No newds is good newds, at Mt Martha, on the bottom in Farm Cove, fog in Newie, et al...

Where to start -- when we alighted from the 6:38 from Meadowbank at Circular Quay (changed at Central), the harbour was shrouded in fog. You could barely see the Opera House, you couldn't see the bridge, and ferries came and went, emerging from the fog and disappearing back into it... But then it lifted to a scorcher of a glorious day, in some truly pristine water (all things are relative - we were in Sydney Harbour), and we walked on the bottom in Farm Cove over firm, clean sand, by wafting, waving farms of bright green weed. It was a lovely swim, if cramped in the facilities.

Down at Mt Martha, @Aquagirl72 had been drooling, even bragging over the fact that the swim there was offering a Newd division on Stra'a Day,  ie without wetties. This is new for Victorian swims, we thought, although a Victorian friend in the check in line under the Opera House steps told us several swims down there had taken up the challenge by providing newdist waves. Aquagirl was v. excited. An excitement doused as with a fire hose when she arrived at Mt Martha to find they wouldn't accept newdist entries on race day. But they would accept conventional entries, it seems, so she had to swim newd in a wettie wave. Good girl for doing it, anyway, but perhaps someone from Mt Martha could explain the rationale behind not allowing newdist entries on race day but allowing wettied ones. Go figure.

Up at what the locals these days appear to call Newie -- an appalling moniker for the city of our birth -- the Newcastle Harbour Classic became the only swim this season so far to attract an enormous proportional increase in pre-race day entries: up more than 50 per cent on last year's onlines. There was fog there, too, we're told, but it, too, cleared to a bewdiful day.

There were swims in plenty of other places, too.. Lake Glenbawn in the Upper Hunter, where blokes do that swim vertically, Brighton, in Melbourne's Bayside suburbs, where @KAOSVIC had told us a few days back the water was putrid, a new swim at Hervey Bay, a swim/run at Burleigh Heads, Scarborough in the West, Kingston Beach in Tassie, Grange in Adelaide, Williamstown in Melbourne, and the 'Gong, souther Sydney.

Tell us about your swims on Stra'a Day...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blueys at Mona Vale, eye candy at Cooly, Port Campbell... etc

Third week in a row, there've been blueys all the way up and down the Sydney coast, yet we swam without injury. North Bondi, Avalon, and now Mona Vale. Thought we were lucky. About to decide to start going to church. Even sat off the last booee taking pitchers in water that was clear and the warmest it's been all season. And no stings.

But then we got into the beach and saw the carnage of the early waves. Some horrific injuries on younger swimmers especially. That'll teach 'em to be fast! And to show all us codgers up. Poor Max Collins who, as the afternoon wore on, found one of his welts forming blisters. Max reckoned they didn't hurt, but then Mrs Sparkle had gone to town on him...

Mrs Sparkle ran hither and thither applying X-Sting-Wish (which she retails) to every injury she could find. Needed confirmation that the stuff works. We applied Ross' Jelly Fish Sting Relief, which we're trialling for Ross down in Melbourne, to see whether it works on blueys. Did you have any applied to your injuries? Which worked?

Lovely swim, but, apart from the blueys. Our friend, Patricia, doubted they really were blueys, since she said the stingers appeared to be gossamer threads with no head. We've seen similar things in the tropics, mainly. We did see dead blueys on the beach at Warriewood before the start (the only good bluey is a dead bluey, but even then they can sting so even then they're not good).

Anyway, tell us your story...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A dozen swims are barely enough...

We count 11 swims on 'round Stra'a this weekend, starting with a biggie, Portsea, down on the tip of the péninsula, over a journey course in the national park, today, Sat'dee. Also Torquay today, Cape Patterson Sundee. Scarborough, in the West, today, Albany Sundee. In NSW, Avalon, Penrith, and a Swim we heard of only yestee, Fingal Beach, just outside Port Stephens (South side of the Heads) tomorrow (thanks to @maitlandswimmer for tipping us off). Tathra, way don South, also Sundee. And Devonport, in Tassie, and West Beach, in Adelaide, also tomorrow, you can do West Beach tomorrow after twitter riding with Lance Armstrong today...

@swimsparkle and @tacomajim doing 8km training session for Rotto today at Balmoral with Coach Charm, and with Shark Shield.

Tell us about your swims, formal/structured or informal/unstructured...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lorne, Sorrento, North Bondi, Cottesloe, Gerringong...

Lorne 154
Lorne was a big day, as we saw on the telly, although we were mightily disappointed to see Victorian Premier, Ted "Death to the Wettie" Baillieu, sporting a wettie for the second year in a row. Even worse, it was on the telly! For all the world to see! Is there no shame?
So we sms-ed Ted seeking his explanation, and we tweeted. And within minutes, the Premier of Victoria was on the phone seeking to explain himself. He was with his daughter, Eleanor, driving out of Lorne, through those windy (as in wind around) hills along the Great Ocean Rd, and the signal cut in and out. But Ted reckoned he had to wear the wettie, because he was racing Eleanor, in a wettie, and pride was at stake. The way the Pier to Pub is organised, it probably was that Ted and Eleanor were swimming at vastly different times, so one would have no idea how the other was going and what time they had to beat. We'll cop it this year, Ted, just like we copped the team excuse last year. But it won't wash forever. Your membership of the Death to the Wettie Institute, and your credibility, is at stake here.
That said, it's noice to have an ocean swimmer as premier. Victoria has a good record at that in recent years. Steve Bracks is a swimmer, albeit a regular wettie wearer, as we understand. Indeed, a good proporation of Bracks's cabinet are/were swimmers. Why can't the NSW people match this?
Aquagirl was at Lorne, as any of you who follow her tweets will be well aware. Her tail along the 3 1/2 hour trek in a 25-seater bus from Frankston, the long way around through Melbourne, and back again, was a saga of missed loo stops and revolt. All very messy, she said on her way home. And there were 4,000 others there, too. Lorne is the largest individual ocean event in Stra'a, and quite possibly the world. The Cole Classic may claim more overall, but theirs is split between two events.
We're off to North Bondi tomorrow. Looking forward to it.
Over in the West, Brett Martin tweeted about having his goggles kicked off by a breaststroker on the first booee in the Cottesloe Mile. It was a very blurry swim after that, said Brett.
But tell us about your swims this weekend... all the good bits, and the bad bits. All the contributions to culcha, all the mishaps, the gaffes, the heroics -- in the water and in the pub -- all the inside stories...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Black Head, Newport, Pt Lonsdale, Dungog... And beyond

As we write, we're on Stroud Rd Between Gloucester and Dungog, en route from Black Head to Sydney. This road is not conducive to typing, so we'll say only this: tell us about your New Year swims. Let the discussion begin...

Lovely day at Black Head: barely a cloud -- just passing Ram Station, perhaps one of those wife-swapping, group sex party ressorts -- water c. 22C, bit of a wave, and very warm (it's 37.5C on the road hère). How was it where you were?