Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More than a grand again in late April

Bottoms up: Lazy late starter at Turimetta, en route to Warriewood.
Over the weekend, we saw some remarkable things: We saw a swim with 371 finishers time and record with, to date, no error using the Post-it note system, while we saw one of the smallest and certainly the youngest swim on the calendar -- with 87 in their main event -- using chip timing, with all its cost, and offering $1,800 in prize money. We saw a three year old swim do its intended course for the first time. We saw (metaphorically, since we weren't there in person) a booee break loose and increase the distance of the swim concerned by maybe 25 per cent.

We saw water quality graduate from murky and opaque at Warriewood (our eyes), to crystal clear (according to a blobber) at Shark Island. Why the difference? We wonder whether it's the greater vulnerability of the northern Sydney beaches to lagoon breakouts in heavy rain. There are none of those in the eastern suburbs or down sarf.

We've marvelled over the numbers of swimmers who have turned out during April, now in mid-autumn -- 1,400 at Coogee on April 14, and this weekend we saw five swims on the eastern seaboard with near 1,200 swimmers at three events on Sunday. Who'da thought that a few years ago? There were c. another 1,200 at Noosa, but that's Queensland.

It just goes to show that people are discovering what we've known and argued for years: that this is the best time of year to swim. Indeed, some swims are best done at this time of year.

We reckon it was especially good to see South Curly organisers run their 371-punter swim on the Post-it Note timing system. What is the Post-it Note system? Newer swimmers will have had no experience of this. It's a manual system whereby volunteer staff write times on Post-it notes as swimmers cross the line, with the swimmers handing their notes to a registration table. It takes more staff but, for hard-up swim organisers, it's cheaper. Warriewood used the Post-It note system, too. It's much cheaper than chip timing, which customarily costs c. $3,000, plus transport and accommodation if the timers have to travel.

A middle way is an iPad app, Race Splitter, which sells for $36.99 on the App Store. It allows the organiser to set up the event in an Excel spreadsheet on their puter at home, then transfer the starting list to the iPad. They record times sequentially on the iPad, then transfer the database back to the puter for post-swim processing. At some point, the person running the system must correlate times with a finishing order. There's a little bit of work there, but it's not huge, and it sounds like a perfect system for small events with very limited person-power.

Knowing how much chip timing costs generally, it's surprising more small events don't use it. Culburra have used it for three years now.

Chip timing is no panacea. We saw that demonstrated at Coogee on April 14, when the timing system seemed to stop recording times at a certain point, with close to 100 swimmers lost (their times were lost, not the swimmers). A well-organised workforce using Post-It Notes is just as effective -- sometimes more effective -- than chip timing, and infinitely cheaper. These events are run to raise money for needy causes, after all. Of course, the Post-It Note system is more practical for smaller events than for larger. This is not to argue against chip timing of larger events, but it suits some events better than others.

A friend suggested on Sunday, whilst we schlepped over the headland to Turimetta to the start of the Warriewood swim, that there should be a "Three Islands Challenge" - swims around Shark Island, off Cronulla, Wedding Cake Island, off Coogee, and the reef off Newport (does anyone know its name?): that's about a 2.5km round trip. This time of year would be the time to do that series, over successive weekends in May, say.

We've had feedback about Noosa -- where the booee broke loose - and we have blobs and other reports on our report page… click here

How was your swim last weekend? Click the comments link below and tell us...


  1. I would if you don’t mind like to offer some comments on the water safety issues in the 3.8k swim last Saturday at Noosa.

    I am a very experienced ocean swimmer in events both in Australia and overseas. The most important aspect of all ocean swimming is of course the water safety support. In the 3.8 swim there was a distinct lack of suitable craft to offer directional advice and to assist anyone who requested it.

    On the swim out to the turning point at Tea Tree Bay, the sun was directly in our eyes and it was very difficult to sight the turning buoys in the distance. Once having turned at Tea Tree, and then heading north to the next buoy, the field had naturally spread out and I was the only swimmer on that leg. I saw no safety craft in my vicinity at all and whilst I was able to deal with it, the situation is far from ideal.

    I also noticed some swimmers stopped at times with cramp, with no IRB nearby to assist if required.

    Obviously most swimmers in this event were fit and experienced, but things do go wrong occasionally and that is where the safety craft are required.

    I do appreciate that USM depended on the Noosa Surf Club to provide the safety craft, but I was amazed at how poor it was. I am referring specifically to the 3.8k. There was a greater presence in the 2k and 1 k.

    I recently did the Wedding Cake Island swim at Coogee, and the Coogee Surf Club was brilliant in their saturation of the course with safety craft.

    Perhaps these comments might help when planning the same for next year.

  2. Just thought I would give some feedback re the Noosa swim today. Having done this swim over a number of years we have sadly watched it go from a fun swim run by the local Surf Club to one corporatised by an event company.

    There were a number of issues really disappointing eg the design of the course for the 3.8km meant that potentially there would be swimmers running into each other (I did run into the elites!!)

    There was inadequate water safety and much confusion trying to work out which buoys to turn at. This was compounded by the fact that the furthest north east buoy had migrated 500m away and was collected by the rubber ducky to be relocated (explains why I couldn't get to it).

    More importantly I get a sense of not a lot of value for the swim eg at the end of the race there was no fruit, but some water and enduro provided by a sponsor. We used to get a T-shirt or towel. I do not know where the money for the swim goes, but suspect that not much goes to the surf club which is who I ideally would like to support. As I said previously, this event has sadly been about money, but not about value for money. There has been a lot of discussion amongst the cronulla swimmers and the general feeling is pretty disgruntled (about 14 of us swum).

    I guess the issue is that there is no sense of giving back to the swim community by USM events, sadly typical of corporatisation of swim events. (I am very happy to be corrected on this issue).


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