Monday, February 25, 2013

Big seas and a fast current

No swims in Sydney with heavy seas, but Pier to Perignon went ahead, as did Sandridge-Williamstown in Victoria, and Rottnest in the West, where we were. Two reports on now on the Pier to Perignon, one of our fave swims, one of which is rather critical.

At Rottnest, conditions weren't ideal but they weren't terrible, either. But as usually applies, the days either side of the swim were close to perfect. Tweetybirds will file a report in due course.

Pity about Sydney, but what can you do when you swim in the ocean. Those who feel worst about this are the awgeenizing clubs themselves, who build up to their one day of the year only to have it snatched from their grasp. Be understanding, please: clubs have considerable expense in gettng to swim day, and that's why general practice is that there are no refunds in the case of cancellation.

Bondi is not cancelled, however: it's postponed, with the postponement date yet to be confirmed. Keep your eye on for the new date.

Read our reports and tell us what you think...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Give me a break! Plea from ordinary mug

In the hope that one day an ordinary mug like myself could win something other than a lucky dip, how about a real handicap calculation which doesn’t only adjust for age and gender, but also ability?

I originally thought about this years ago and may have even written about it in your old feedback columns. I thought it might be time to revisit and develop something.
Thinking back to the Dezzie idea from a while ago where times were compared to the event winner, there are a number of anomalies:
  1. Was the winner be particularly fast/slow? Was it an Olympic gold-medal standard or just a Commonwealth Games gold medal standard?
  2. Were the conditions that the winner swam in significantly different from the rest of the field? This could make your Dezzie look better or worse, and you don't have any  idea if you have improved against the field based on your previous efforts.
  3. On longer swims, the winner is always significantly faster than those finishing further back in the pack, probably because they’re toiling for a much shorter period.  This gives you a worse than expected Dezzie.
So, I reckon we need to come up with a way to adjust for these problems and develop a world-first oceanswimming handicap system.
Where to start???  I’m not a golfer, but, in golf, payers of all abilities are rated and there are similar problems and a well-developed handicapping system.  So, I did some golf reading:
  • Different courses are assigned course ratings and slope ratings. The course rating is how difficult a course will be for the scratch golfers and the slope rating adjusts according to how difficult the course is for those further back in the pack.
  • Scratch golfers are those who’d score “Par” when playing to their ability on a course, so they’re not necessarily the pros, just very good golfers. It seems there are teams of scratch golfers who visit different courses, play them and rate them.
  • In Australia, there’s even a daily scratch rating to adjust for conditions, but that’s really getting complicated.  Some interesting reading... click here and here
In oceanswimming, having a daily scratch rating may be impractical, so to get started, I thought we should find the “scratch” swimmer in each race and use their time as the basis for the handicapping. My thought was that the swimmer finishing 12.5% of the way through the field in each swim could be the one who provides the time base for the handicapping. So, if there were 504 people racing, then the time of person who finishes 63rd is the course rating time. I came up with this a while ago and can’t quite remember where it came from. I think it was from the now defunct Australian Golf’s CCR (Calculated Course Rating) which was determined by taking the 15th percentile score (ie assuming that 15% of players played to their mark or better, with 85% worse). Not exactly the same concept, but something to work from.

The next step would be to compare each swimmer’s “Event Handicap” (for the swim just completed) with their “Handicap average” taken from their last five swims. The swimmer with the highest “Event performance compared to Handicap average” (the greatest improver in the particular swim) would be the week’s handicap winner. The idea is that the handicap award would be restricted to those swimmers who completed at least five swims over the previous 12 months.

Summary of steps

  1. Calculate finishing time for the placegetter who finished 12.5% of the way through the field (our scratch swimmer)
  2. Calculate each swimmer’s time compared to the scratch swimmer. This is the “Event handicap” time for each swimmer.
  3. Calculate each swimmer’s “Event performance”. This is their event handicap compared to their average handicap from their last five swims.
  4. The swimmer with the best “Event performance” is the handicap winner.
(Rob attached a spreadsheet with his results since 2004 showing this event performance handicap system: os.c)
With all the data ( must have, this, or something even better, must be achievable. Anyway, I’m not a statistician, or a great mathematician, just a guy who, even after eight years and 70-odd swims, is still trying to figure how he’s going in this oceanswimming caper.

Anyway, it would be interesting for ideas/feedback from your resident stats guru oceanswimmers.

Rob Salomon

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Magic at Malabar, Half Moon in Vic, full moons at Cobblers

How do we rise on a Sundee morn to find cloud covering the blue bits in the sky? Quite often. But how often do we then get to the beach to find the sun burn off the cloud and the glory of a Sydney summer emerge? Almost as often. So it was today at Malabar, with Murray Rose's Malabar Magic. Organiser Rob Lloyd remarked during a remembrance ceremony for Murray that he was there, watching down on us. And so he might have been, using his sway with whoever might be upstairs, if anyone -- it might just be a rag-tag mob of spirits just like all of us with no-one in charge -- to give us a glorious day.

And it was a glorious day. The beauty of Malabar is that it's a terrific beach for new swimmers to get a feel for the water. There's no break, it's generally straight into swimmable water, and it's wide, flat, open and gentle. There was a bit of roll as the peloton moved seawards, but what do you expect? Let's hope the organisers shift the start/finish away from those rocks next time. It was perilous.

A report in The Sydney Morning Herald from Cobblers Beach, where the newd swim took place, said it was a lovely day enjoyed by all, whilst other reports were critical: "...the swim organisation was atrocious," tweeted Wett One Lindy Woodrow. No detail yet, but perhaps that will emerge from Murray Cox, who paddled over to Cobblers with his Go-Pro to video the swim. We're looking forward to Murray's report.

Half Moon Bay, the Cerberus swim, in Port Phillip Bay on Sat'dee, had a very nice day, too, according to our entrist, @KAOSVIC. Rockingham and Mandurah ran in the West, Auckland in NZ, Henley in SA and Mooloolaba in Queensland... What did you think? Click the Comments link below to tell us...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lake Bondi at its best, until the breeze cooms in

Lovely day at Lake Bondi, showing itself at its best other than that some could have done with a bit more swell. It was warm, but not hot, with a gentle, refreshing breeze blowing from the nor'-east. Good numbers for this swim, too: 1,235 online entries, up from 1,039 the previous season. Distances as measured by the os.c GPS-in-a-plastic-bag were 1.27km for the shorter swim, and 1.91km for the longer.

There was hardly any swell at the nor'-eastern end of Bondi Beach -- North Bondi itself faces almost due south -- and that is what makes this sport such a good ocean swim venue. All those CanTooers who got crunched in the break at Palm Beach two weeks earlier can have had no complaints this time, as there was virtually no shore break through which to crash this time. Looking sarf, there was swell. Indeed, swimmers reported that, past Ben Buckler, around the first turning booee, things began to get bumpy. That's because the swell out there was from the nor'-east, and it didn't wrap into the northern corner, but it did give swimmers a push along the outer reach towards Mackenzies Point.

Good timing, too: as the final mug swimmers schlepped into North Bondi at the end of the 2km, the southerly hit. A brisk, trenchant breeze, cutting up the water's surface and, over time, kicking up some windswell in the northern corner which, as the tide dropped, created that beach break that we'd lacked earlier. We'd been planning to make our return to the sea after a break of more than three months, but when that southerly blew in, we decided to leave it until next week at Malabar.

A couple of unfortunates were stung (blueys, but you didn't need us to tell you that), but all in all, they reported, conditions were triffic.

It made us wonder, though, to see a pod of punters pulling on wetties in this weather. We tweeted the pic, only to have (apparently) one of them, Jeff Sapier (who tweets as @getmeabucket), respond: "These events are great for triathlon training, happy to support other surf clubs if you don't like it". We understand Jeff's point. It's a comment on triathlon, though, that wetties are such an established element of the gear that training for one of these events ipso facto means swimming in a wettie. Surely they hold triathlons in warm water sometimes, and surely this requires practice, too. The water was warm at North Bondi today, and so was the sun. Swimming in a wettie raises OH&S issues, also, such as hydration. Another twit, Tamera Lang (@discokitkat), responded: "This makes it awfully tempting to turn up to a tri and do the 'run' in roller skates and still claim I finished the event".

We love the debate; the to-ing and fro-ing.

The only negative we heard was that the swim was crowded with many "newer" swimmers (read, CanTooers, according to more established swimmers), still apparently coming to terms with the corollaries of breaststroke, particularly around booees. CanTooers are a positive, actually, with so many coming into our sport through this admirable charity organisation. There's a lovely spirit about the CanTooers, such a warm, positive sense of personal achievement. Not all skills are learnt upfront.

One other carp was that, yet again, and at the last minute, the starter combined the final wave, the Codgers, with the Back of the Packers. Some Codgers don't like this.

It was tweeted afterwards, too, that some names were missing from the results. If you're not there, send us an email and we'll pass it on to the timers... click here

In Victoria, it was the weekend of The Bloody Big Swim, 10km from Frankston to Mornington. And, in Devonport, 40kmh winds forced the courses to be reset into triangles inside sheltered waters. How lucky that they had those sheltered waters offering such ready succour!

But tell us about your swim(s) this weekend... click the Comments link below...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Swims in many weathers

Glistening Dave attended Mona Vale, but didn't swim.
A varied weekend for ocean swimming around Stra'a, with reports from Dromana in Victoria on Sat'dee of glorious weather, contrasted with postponement of Caves Beach in NSW due to forecast heavy seas, and the Cole Classic going ahead on its permanently, it seems, modified course in and out of Shelly Beach.

There were classics in South Australia, at Brighton, and Cott-Swanny in Perth. How did they go?

Back to NSW's only swim, the Cole Classic, until recently the season standard bearer in the ocean swimming growth state. Judging by the times, the courses were long: the winner of the 1km did the swim in 13:38, which would put the course at 1.2-1.3km, while the winner of the 2km did 25:18, again a long course for that time, probably around 2.3-2.4km. We heard that the Cole re-positioned marker buoys part way through the 2km event, which would render time comparisons difficult, to say the least. Is this true? Does anyone know for sure?

Numbers were down at the Cole, but that's hardly surprising, given the weather. They were lucky to get their swims in, which ran despite a Beachwatch warning that Shelly Beach was likely to be polluted after the heavy rain of the past few days.

The 1km at the Cole again was bigger than the 2km, with 1,520 finishers against 1,319 in the 2km. Even judging by entrants, rather than finishers, numbers were down at 3,872, down from 4,508 last year. Perhaps the market is commenting on the Cole's entry fees.

These graphs are interesting -

This first graph (left) shows the trend of Cole entrants over the years since 2009 when Fairfax Meeja took over the event from the Cole family. There was strong growth at the outset, reflecting the meeja push behind it. But then entries tapered off.
The second graph shows the trend in Cole finishers over the same years.

Two things stand out: one is the drop off in finishers in the last two years (mirroring the drop-off in entries); the other is the 1km event overtaking the 2km as the event's marquee swim.

There are two overall trends we've noticed in the sport in the last couple of seasons. One is that the growth in the sport is in the shorter distance swims: new swimmers are coming into shorter events, which are surging in numbers in comparison with established, longer events. The other trend is resistance to large events with high price tags. And they hardly come higher than the Cole Classic. Only Byron Bay at $65 ranks with the Cole, which also charged $65 for their 2km swim after their earlybird period closed.

Some swims in Victoria, particularly, charge hefty amounts, too, but they usually come with event shirts which really are souvenirs. Does Byron still give a shirt with swim entry? We're not sure.

Anyway, how did you swim, wherever it was?