Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lovely day, but bludgers were afoot

We weren't there, but we hear the Island Challenge at Coogee was a lovely day, but we expected it would be. From our bolthole, cosseted in an oasis of greenery in Sydney's inner east, gaoled, we could see the sky, we could feel the breeze, and we could smell the late spring air. Typical Coogee, we thought. And from all accounts, it was.

Our cobber, Murray Cox, looking for something of a flagship nature to do this season, is to be the male lead in a Tropfest movie about insomnia. Murray was at Coogee early -- he couldn't sleep -- and sent us a few pics of punters on the beach. We have no idea whom these punters are -- apart from  one of them -- but, since Murray was kind enough to send them to us, we feel we should acknowledge and use them. As for Murray's movie, Insomnia, his producer/director will be appealing very soon for supporters -- $10 a pop will get your name in the credits, for example -- so we'll let you know and you, too, can become a movie mogul. The bottom line is, if they don't get enough supporters, they won't make the movie, which is a bit extreme, we'd have thought.

Anyway, most of the accounts we heard from Coogee were positive of a smoothly run, friendly event. The only slightly negative bit of feedback -- apart from the heel wafting of one recidivist of which we heard -- was of the presos conducted in the surf club. One punter told us they were terrific, whilst another told us they weren't. We have to say, any presos conducted inside a surf club immediately exclude the bulk of the entrants, who don't feel able, for one reason or another, to go inside just in case they win a random draw.

Speaking of heel wafting, Mrs Sparkle was the victim of one, but she also tells us she swam past another woman heel wafting on some bloke, who seemed to have his heels painted with bright stripes, targets, perhaps, so she could find him?

We've said it before, and we shall keep saying it: heel-wafting -- drafting -- is cheating; it's bludging. There is only one reason to draft, and that is to get around the course under someone else's steam. The leader effectively drags the heel-wafter along behind. There's only one person really trying: the leader. The heel-wafter is bludging, using the lead swimmer's effort to get much of their speed. They do it in triathlon, but they're an eccentric bunch in that sport, spending thousands just to be a part of it in the first place. They do it in elite open water swimming, but they also generally take turns leading at the elite level, so that everyone does their bit, much like cyclistes.

Genuine, honest ocean swimmers don't draft; they don't bludge on their comrades; they don't steal someone else's effort.

Otherwise, we're told, Coogee was a lovely day. We heard noice reports from the Killer Swim in Mur'bah, too, and from Redcliffe, where the Great Australian Swim Series had another outing. Whom of you swam where? Tell us abart it...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Response to gratuitous comments

We're not big ones for being sucked into a debate with "Anonymous", and it's always disappointing when punters submit blobs to us which don't include their names. Why should we have to say, "If you're game enough to express an opinion, then you should be game enough -- and decent enough -- to put your name to it"?

The blob below came in a couple of days back. We posted it as is, but overnight it nagged at us. Our idea originally was to respond to it ourselves, to leave our own comment. But the problem with that is that it loses context. We decided instead to run it as "Anonymous" submitted it, but in a way that allows us to set its context. Unfair? Well, it's our blob, as Kerry Packer would have said, and did.

Here's the original blob -
There doesn't seem to be anywhere sensible to put a general comment for this blog - but in case this gets through to the esteemed keepers of the keys, here are a couple of gratuitous remarks:
1. All those surveys.
I've filled out a lot of response forms for you, and sometimes made the effort to add comments, not just give you numbers. Has anything happened with that data? Was there much difference between swims on the dimensions you assessed? What did people put in the suggestion box? Were there any common themes? It'd be really great to know - even if it's not all beautifully statistically crunched.
2. Bondi to Bronte.
I appreciate your site a lot. I also love the B2B. Your entry "privately run event for Bronte SLSC" seems a bit pointed. How are the other events not 'privately run'? Is there any difference between the way Bronte runs this event to the way other SLSCs run theirs? It's a really fantastic and iconic swim. Is there a reason for not at least putting a link to their site? Or providing some details of the swim? I am sorry if I am wide of the mark, but it does appear a bit churlish or spiteful. Which is a shame for a site that's generally way above any suggestion of pettiness.
best wishes for the season
Best wishes to you, too, Anonymous. We appreciate your positive, constructive and generous comments, and we even appreciate your negative comments as part of the overall yarn.

To respond to your points:

1. The surveys

We, too, feel guilty -- we feel guilty about everything, although we were raised Anglicans -- that we haven't reported to you comprehensively on the results of those post-swim surveys from last season. We did report progressively in our weekly email newsletters as the season went on, of course. Perhaps Anonymous doesn't see these. The surveys were a fascinating exercise and we gathered considerable data on individual swims. All winter, we planned to write a report bringing all that data together. But we travelled much in Concord… er, around swim spots over winter, and we haven't yet managed to get to it. We apologise. But we will. We know the most important point is not our failure to divulge the information gathered; it's our failure to honour our duty to all you mugs who filled in those surveys. It's coming. We're about to have a couple of weeks of relative inactivity, and it's one of the things we're planning to get to then.

2. Bondi-Bronte

This event is described as being privately run because it is. Bronte SLSC uses a private organiser to run its swim. We know of no other surf life saving club which does this, although two other clubs last season used the same private organiser: Coogee, which retook control of their swims later in the season, and Tama-Cloey, which is not running this season. A few years back, Manly used Craig Riddington's company to revamp their swim, but they, too, took the event back after a couple of years. (That said, Riddington and his business partner, Scott Wood, both Manly members, made some excellent changes to revamp that swim.) Many surf clubs have benefited enormously from an influx of new, mature members in recent years, many of them driven by initial exposure to the movement through ocean swimming. It's ironic, however, that many of these members are time poor: city workers, professionals, people running their own businesses. So many numbers don't necessarily equal many new members with the time to devote to running an ocean swim for their club. It's difficult for the clubs, and it's one of the reasons why some of them have turned to private organisers. Given the amount, whatever it is, that surf clubs might pay private organisers, however, swimmers are entitled to wonder how much the club needs the money from their fundraising, and how much of their entry fees goes to the club that's the cause of the fundraising.

Links to events

On the point about links to the Bondi-Bronte website, we have a policy, stated clearly on our website (see swims/event services), that... cannot provide links to (NSW or Queensland) events which take on-line entries through 3rd parties. also cannot provide links to private (commercial) events unless they take Featured Swim status.
We won't provide links to events that use 3rd parties -- groups outside the sport -- for online entries because we won't support the leeching of funds to outside groups whose only interest is in taking the sport's revenue. We earn little enough revenue ourselves from our activities within the sport; we're certainly not going to assist outside groups to leech that revenue. One of the things of which we're proud is that, while providing online entry services to swims, we also bring swimmers to those swims. Outside groups don't do that.

(We draw a distinction between NSW and Queensland events, on the one hand, and those in other parts of Stra'a, on the other hand, because NSW and Queensland are our primary areas of commercial activity, where we have worked most to build the sport. Swims in other states generally had relationships extant when we came along. We have not been commercially active in those states, and we're not about to take such a position in relation to them. It would be nice if swims in other states decided to use our services, and we are working towards that.)

With regard to the second policy, on links to privately organised swims, we reckon that, if an event is privately organised, and if they want us to support them to make their profits, then a private/commercial swim should pay for that support. Bondi-Bronte falls into a grey category: it's run by a commercial organisation in the name of a surf club, and that's why we use that descriptor on our calendar. Swimmers have a right to know: When you enter an event that uses a private organiser, you're not just supporting the club, worthy as it is, you're also supporting its commercial organiser. In Bronte's case, the irony is that, while the club uses a commercial organiser, the club still provides the water safety and race day volunteers.

Bondi-Bronte runs over a magnificent course. Before Bronte ran its first swim, the original organiser, the then club president, Graham Ford, phoned us to discuss the proposed event. Graham said they planned to run a swim inside the bay between Bronte and Tamarama. We responded, "If (Bronte is) going to run a swim, you must go around Mackenzies Point". That was the obvious course, we reckoned. Someone had to do it. Ford took that advice, and the iconic event we have today is the result. The swim's first outing drew around 850 swimmers, for goodness sake. That's all about the course itself.

Open slather on wetties 

Now, don't get us started on Bondi-Bronte's wetsuit policy... It offers three options for different wettie stati: if the water temp is greater than 20C and the air temp is over 25C (no wettie allowed), if the water is warmer than 20C but the air is less than 25C (wetties allowed), and if the water is cooler than 20C and the air cooler than 25C (wetties allowed). You'll notice that the 2nd and 3rd options produce the same result.

The event's website says that, in such circumstances:
Any type of wetsuit or speed suit is approved in all categories and WILL qualify for age group prizes.
One swimmer pointed out to us that the mean maximum temperature in December in Sydney is 25.1C, so there's a very strong chance that that condition will be met and it will be open slather on wetties. Some people feel the cold, of course, and they should always be allowed to wear a wettie if they wish. But wetties should never be allowed in open company in a NSW swim. They should have their own divisions.

North Bondi's wettie policy is far more sensible: if the water is below 18 deg C on swim day, as measured by Bondi lifeguards, then you can wear a wettie. Otherwise, you're Back of the Pack or you're newd. Full Spot! (Thanks to Moose Moore for that last witticism.)