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?


  1. Is someone suggesting the course changed during the Cole?? Never... or well maybe... Just look at the fact Ollie Signorini won the elites (1st group around) in 25.18. Then look at the overall times, and note the 40-44, 45-49 and overs posting faster times! In the 40-44 age we hit the first can. Headed to the second can - all of a sudden it went about 50m to the right. We chased it down and caught it. We then headed to the 3rd can - got that one too. We headed out to the sea and hit the 4th can. We sighted the 5th can out to sea and headed to it. Hang on, it is moving to NZ. Oh, it is on the back of a duckie. Keep adjusting course to hit it. Finally told by a paddler the can is out of the game. OK, head down and sprint to the 6th/7th cans and finish - Excellent, the winning time in the 40-44 is 2 minutes quicker than Ollie Signorini - woo hoo. Shhhhh, just don't tell anyone the course was probably a bit shorter for anyone over the age of 40 who raced - us oldies like the look of the overall results the way they are. In defence of the organisers they did tell us (the 40-44 age) in the race briefing that the cans were moving and they were adjusting the course and that they were not sure where the cans would end up - this was due to a rise in the swell and the fact the waves were breaking over the set course and the Bower started to pump. In reality we were racing our age groups, and although the overall results are nice for us to look at, there were really 10 or so sub-races within the main race. Just happy to have a race today and to not have the race cancelled. Posted by Pete Thiel

  2. Yep, Byron does still give a t-shirt with entry. Although I quite enjoyed the Cole Classic today I spent most of the race with no idea where I was going. I did find it a bit confusing (and in my defence, I can normally navigate from buoy to buoy OK)....but maybe I was having a particularly vague day.

  3. Yes, they did change the course. See the results page:

  4. Cole Classic - Entry $65, long waits until the old farts go off, poor parking, gray day, waning field, not home till after 1pm.

    Drummoyne Pool - Entry $4.20 (concession), no waves, easy parking, in and out in 60 minutes, off to the Empire at Annandale for good cheap food and excellent beer by midday.

    I don't normally choose pool over beach on a Sunday, but I've really gone off the Cole, Cave's Beach was too far on a wet stormy day (and was cancelled anyway) and there's always Bondi next week - see you there. Steve Hall

  5. My sad confession is that I chickened out of swimming my first Cole Classic and instead slept in. There were a few factors that contributed to my decision and ultimately it comes back to me. However, I have to say that, as a newbie, I was completely freaked out by the emailed warning by the organisers on Friday night that I should be prepared for challenging conditions and that I swam at my own risk. I wasn't sure how I was supposed to prepare more than I already had, just two days out and took it as a sign that they were recommending that I pull out. I now see that the advice at Oceanfit is somewhat saner and adds some useful context, completely absent from the Cole official communications. I will not give up on ocean swimming and will reflect this has been a useful learning exercise, just at a cost of $65. Prepare, prepare, prepare.


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