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


  1. I did the CC on sundee. It was my first time and after completing the Palm to Whale the week before I was expecting a similar experience i.e. plenty of water safety, jet skis, paddle boards, rubber ducks, chopper etc…
    We were informed that there was 35 lifeguards on the course which is approx. every 60 metres or so. This was 100% not the case.
    Compared to Whale to Palmy I felt very exposed. I am not a ocean swimming expert but I have done a few and never felt as exposed or without a lifeguard in site. With a number of people using the CC as their first ocean swim experience I think it doesn’t give out the right vibe and especially with so many people in the water.
    I understand that the Palm to Whale have access to two SLSC’s however there are 3 in Manly alone.
    The buoy sighting was also poor. I saw a large group get lost and the sighting between the last yellow buoy towards the purple buoy was too far.
    Next year I will do both swims again but only the CC because I can crawl out of bed to the start line and my family enjoyed the atmosphere at the finish.
    Simon Hair

  2. Manage the timing tags better – lots of them fell off during the race, I found several and handed them in – hence lots of people without official times (and plastic polluting the ocean).
    Caroline Alcorso

  3. They could measure the swim more accurately. I don't expect it to be perfect, but last year my GPS said
    When paying so much, a 10% shorter race is not OK. And, I expect my GPS to be over because I don't always swim straight.
    I was crushed when I thought I had done a PB and then realised the distance wasn't even close.

  4. Thanks for the most recent email. I was enjoying the read, until I came to the Cole Classic bashing which I have to say feels like a bad broken record on repeat.
    I am an avid ocean swimmer, having done plenty of events in NSW, QLD and the UK. I love them all, and for different reasons. I have done the Cole Classic 3 or 4 times now, and every time have had an absolute blast with all of my mates and training buddies. It promotes a welcoming event for lots of new swimmers and the atmosphere in Manly is amazing on the day. It is really disappointing to see you pushing people away from the event because you seem to have some sort of personal vendetta against Fairfax media.
    Yes it is more expensive, but no one is holding a gun to the heads of over 3,000 people making them enter! It is a free choice, so let people make it on their own.
    No ocean race is perfect, and I don't see why you have to single this event out in your emails. If you don't like it, then get over it and stop ranting. I am sure the majority of your readers want positive, inspirational stories and race reviews and not negativity.
    You are obviously a veteran of the ocean swimming world with lots to say, so my suggestion to you would be to direct your tips on how Fairfax could improve their race to Fairfax themselves, rather than your readers.

  5. I've also done a lot of ocean swims and I too really enjoy the Cole Classic, the swim itself, is one of my favourites.
    I do agree with the last buoy being really hard to see. Purple probably wasn't the best colour choice when placing a buoy in a green ocean against a blue sky. But hey, hopefully they'll make it fluro orange next year.
    I felt there was ample water safety at the CC and if you're comparing it to the Big Swim, I did the Palm to Whale in 2014 and besides a few boats out the back, I don't recall there being many surf life savers being out there that day. And for those who did Palm-Whale will know, that was not an easy swim at all!
    For the number of people the CC has to cater for I think they are very well organised. Manly SLSC did a great job and I'm from Bondi so I'm definitely not being bias ;)
    I really enjoy the Cole Classic it's my 3rd year doing it and I'll always have that one on my calendar. No ocean swim event is perfect - sometimes you get fruit at the end and sometimes you don't :(

  6. Please stop whinging about the Cole Classic. Too much space has been given over to having a go at it. The Cole Classic has a role, given as you say its huge publicity machine, to promote the idea of ocean swimming. Many first time swimmers use it as a launch pad into ocean swimming then move on. This has been the personal experience of at least 20 people I know.

  7. I agree vis a vis the Cole Classic suggestions.
    1. Its too expensive;
    2. Having to collect your race pack the day before is a complete pain. I generally only enter a race the day before - when I'm confident the conditions will be favourable.
    3. Having to collect your race pack the day before also adds to the expense, courtesy of having to make another trip out to Manly in order to do it (and I only live in Edgecliff).
    A combination of 1-3 led me not to enter the Cole Classic this year. As a race, its not so special so as to put up with the inconvenience.
    Matt Grey

  8. Totally support everything written here. Seen similar at City to Surf which is getting worse every year (done 15 of 'em).In 2015 you must enter in January (yep 8 moths out!) in order to get your bib posted...used to be 6 weeks out...clearly they feel a need to channel more people though their sponsors' Expo which is at Moore Park (not exactly easy to get to if you are an interstate visitor coming for the event). Another interesting snippet is that Fairfax media staff have been forbidden from posting on social media.I'll be doing it my way again in 2015 and doing a self-supported run from William St to Bondi and donating entry fee to charity. Surely this approach could work for Cole classic?

  9. The cole is not my favourite swim. But it is the swim my 72 year old father travels 5 hours to swim in so I join him. There are many areas where the organisers come up short. And I do love some Fairfax bashing but let's not ignore the fact that progress has been made. You could enter on race day this year (expensive yes but at least it left the option open) and their colours for the caps were an improvement from recent years. I could list plenty of issues that are still to be fixed and I prefer the smaller locally run swims where I feel confident my money is going somewhere other than a large company's profits, but I feel we should at least make note when progress is made. It is hard to only bash an event that is regularly the one swim that non swimming friends join me in.

  10. Read your suggestions re improving the Cole Classic and agree wholeheartedly. You have neatly summarised most of the reasons why I have not swum it for the last 4 years or so despite having been involved since the Bondi days. It has become too big, too commercialised and it is extremely difficult to negotiate the logistics of getting there, wasting hours before/after the race etc. Don’t intend to swim it again while in its present format.
    Peter Sheean

  11. They should give up on the 9km. It was cancelled because "you could not safely exit a swimmer in need of medical treatment by boat on a beach due to conditions. Well you can't do that on the 10 km south head Roughwater from Bondi to Watsons Bay or the 20km to Rottnest Island. They should not put us all through the effort of organising our own safety boat and then cancel for the irrelevant reason they gave.

  12. Give it a break!
    I suppose it’s a luxury of having your own website that you can push your favourite hobby horse but mate, it gets a bit boring.
    Cameron Trappett

  13. These are great tips, and no doubt they will make the Cole Classic a better event for everyone. This is such a huge event, and with a lot of people participating, the organizers need all the help they can get. Once they get everything organized, this will be back to its popularity.


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