Friday, February 6, 2015

Cole Classic - They could do it better

Herald photographers took some stunning images of the Cole Classic last Sundee. That's the advantage of having a whole stable of phots on staff. This one was tweeted by Dallas Kilponen.
 As entries to last weekend's Cole Classic fell again, for the fourth year running (For an analysis of the stats... Click here), we make some suggestions to make the largest swim in NSW more attractive event to punters -
  1. Make it cheaper. Average entry fee to ocean swim events around NSW is $35-$40. The Cole charges up to $65 ($75 on swim day). Only Byron Bay matches this entry fee, and their numbers have fallen, too. Bring the entry fee to around what punters think is reasonable, and more will enter.
  2. Allow punters to enter at reasonable rates right up to swim day. Most swims charge a premium for race day entries, and a couple of swims do not allow new entries on swim day. The Cole offers its cheaper entry fees months ahead of the event, evidently encouraging punters to enter early. This might work with street runs, of which Fairfax Meeja operates several. But swims are different to runs. It might rain on a run, but the street doesn't change. It's not like the sea. Fairfax should recognise that swimmers like to get a feel for swim day before entering, and this is not unreasonable.
  3. Be kinder to the ill and unfortunate. Fairfax allows up to 50 per cent refund if entrants fall ill before swim day, but only up to a cut-off point a month ahead of the swim, and even then only with a medical certificate. There is absolutely no reason why Fairfax, with all the resources at its disposal, cannot be more understanding of punters who fall ill or suffer misadventure right up to swim day. For some punters, their circumstances simply change. Allow them to withdraw, with a reasonably administrative fee. That will build goodwill.
  4. Attract swimmers to take part in both swims. Fairfax offers no concession to swimmers who wish to do both swims, so entry to both costs $120, or $140 on swim day. Doing both swims is attractive to many swimmers. The earlier, generally shorter swim is a warm-up for regular swimmers. Other events that run two swims offer concessions. Fairfax could boost its entry revenue at minimal extra cost to overheads by offering concessionary entry. And to those who argue that the shorter swim should be reserved for inexperienced swimmers, they could bar entrants in the longer swim from prizes and places in the shorter swim.
  5. Clean up the Cole Classic website. Currently, the Cole's website is a mess. Try to navigate around it and find relevant information, and it becomes very confusing. And information in some parts of the website contradicts other parts. Someone clear-headed needs to go through the website to make it clearer and simpler, and more accurate. There's history being rewritten on parts of that site.
  6. Happily facilitate changes to entries. Allow entrants to transfer between events and even to expand their entries from one event to both more easily and more cheaply. We'd have thought it's in Fairfax's interests to do what they can to help punters, rather than making things difficult for them. We know, from all the entries we take for other events, what is involved in what are minor adminstrative changes.
  7. Allow punters to collect their "race packs" on event day. Everyone else does it. Lorne, the biggest ocean swim in Stra'a -- we suspect, the world -- allows registration and pack collection on swim day. They deal with 5,000 swimmers on the beach on swim morning. And they're just a surf club. If Lorne can do more, surely Fairfax can do likewise. Forcing punters to travel across the city and back during the days ahead of the swim is unreasonable and absolutely unnecessary. Not only that, but there is a safety issue involved here: if punters pick up their packs ahead of swim day, then organisers have no certainty about who is in the water on swim day, even with starting pads.
  8. Ensure your cap colours optimise safety for swimmers. The Cole has had a terrible record in past years of clothing swimmers in the "lost-at-sea" range of cap colours - charcoals, purples, blacks, blues, maroons, etc. Even white is a "lost at sea" colour, for on a windy day with white caps, you cannot tell white caps from whitecaps. At Manly last Sundee, we spotted only one "lost at sea" colour: baby blue. Yes, baby blue is a "lost at sea" colour, particularly in conditions like this race day. You cannot pick it out easily. Cap colours need to be readily seen and identified. This is why the Surf Life Saving Association stipulates a range of fluoro colours for caps, and we agree with them. It's a matter of water safety, not simply a matter of ensuring that no two colours are repeated. This is one reason why we reckon Fairfax has no feeling for ocean swims. They just don't seem to understand these issues.
  9. Fairfax should donate some of the cash it raises from events such as the Cole to a charity fund. It makes a big noise about how much money its events raise for charity, but not a single dollar of that comes from Fairfax itself. Fairfax pays Manly Life Saving Club a fee (last we heard, it was about $25,000) for managing the water side of the event on swim day, but that's a fee for service. Fairfax shouldn't just make out that it's supporting charity, it should actually do it, too.
A very keen starter, or is that becasue he knew the camera was on him? Another image from the Cole -- the start at Shelly Beach -- as tweeted by the Herald's Dallas Kilponen.
Other things will come up, but this will do for starters.

If you have suggestions on how the Cole can do it better... Click the comment link below