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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Defining Open Water Swimming Relays

The relay genre within the open water swimming world is currently in its heyday with swims – record-setting attempts, charity events and relay races – being held all over the globe.

The relay genre can be defined and separated into eight general classifications:

1. Channel Relays
2. Competitive Relays
3. Charity Relays (including eco relays)
4. Staged Relays
5. Freestyle Relays
6. Masters Relays
7. Team Pursuit
8. Distance Relays

Channel relays have always been popular in the English Channel and Catalina Channel where six swimmers rotate in one-hour segments. The order of the swimmers must not change throughout the swim and every swimmer must complete their leg. If the order or the length of any rotation of any swimmer is compromised, the relay is not certified as following the rules of these channels. These traditional relay rules can be found here.

The fastest relay time in the English Channel was set by the USA National Swim Team in 6 hours and 52 minutes in 1990 (which is only 5 minutes faster than the all-time solo record). The two-way relay record in the English Channel (14:18) was set by the USA National Swim Team in 1990, which is 1 hour and 52 minutes faster than the all-time solo record. Amazingly, Philip Rush’s three-way solo record of 28:21 is faster than the fastest three-way relay record in the English Channel, set by Sport City (Mexico) in 2007 is 30:07. But Sport City (Mexico) has the fastest four-way relay record in the English Channel, set in 2007 (going from England to France to England to France to England) in 42:11.

In the Catalina Channel, the fastest relay records from Catalina to the mainland (mixed at 7:02, female at 7:04 or male at 7:11) are just slightly ahead of the solo record of Penny Dean (7:15).

Competitive relays follow the same general principles as the traditional channel relays with some modifications. While the number generally remains the same (i.e., six), there are variations in the number of swims and the length of the legs. In the case of the Trans Tahoe Relay, swimmers must stay in the same order, but on each rotation the swim time changes from 30 minutes on the first leg to 15 minutes on the second leg to 10 minutes on the third leg (that continues to the end). In the Maui Channel Relay, swimmers stay in the same order, but the first rotation is 30 minutes in length and then the second and subsequent rotations are 10 minutes in length. In the 45K Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and the 26K Lake Zürich International Self-Transcendence Marathon Swim, as two other examples, the relays can be two or four people and vary in time length.

Charity relays, including relays that aim to raise money or awareness for ecological or environmental causes, come in all kinds of rotations, duration and can follow their own rules unless they specifically state they will follow certain rules. For example, while traditionalists eschew wetsuits, numerous charity relay swimmers can wear wetsuits. The 25K Swim Across The Sound, as three other examples, the relays can be two or four people and vary in time length.

Staged relays are a type of timed relay competition conducted over the course of two or more consecutive days where the distance of the individual stages can vary on each day and the starting point of the subsequent stages begins at or near the same point as the finish of the previous day's swim. The overall final time of each relay is the culmination of the swimming times of the individual stages. The overall final distance is the distance measured from the starting point to the finish point in miles, nautical miles or kilometers. The finish on the final day can be at the same location or at a different location than the start on the first day. These staged relays have been held from Siberia to San Francisco.

Freestyle relays allow the team members to decide the length of time for their rotation or the distance they wish to swim. In the Fiji Swims relay, the always victorious relay teams from Australia take this freedom of choice to an interesting extreme. Their six swimmers often swim at 1 – 2 minute segments so each swimmer is swimming nearly all-out with relatively short rest.

Masters relays can use any pre-determined format and are becoming increasingly popular around the world. Their age groups are generally the cumulative ages of the swimmers and can be either one or mixed gender teams.

Team pursuit is one of the newest relay formats in the open water swimming community and will debut at the 2011 World Swimming Championships in Shanghai, China. Teammates will start, swim and finish together, but are randomly set off in staggered starts, separated by (generally) 60 seconds. Like cyclists, the Team Pursuit encourages swimmers to form an aquatic peloton. In the Team Pursuit, the official time of the team is the time that the last swimmer finishes which places a premium on drafting, positioning, navigating and pacing. The closer and straighter the swimmers swim, the faster the time. The start order is randomly selected and the teams can be either single- or mixed gender (i.e., either 2 men and 1 woman or 2 women and 1 man). If one team catches up to another team, they can draft off of or pass the slower team, but the rules of unsportsmanlike conduct or impeding still is in effect.

Distance relays come in all forms. Relays such as the Ventura Deep Six Relay or the Night Train Swimmers follow the traditional rules of English Channel relays where no wetsuits are allowed and one-hour legs in the same rotation are strictly maintained. On the other hand, the Camlough Relay in Ireland and the Lake Cane 50K relays have larger numbers of athletes and can swim for a specific distance (50K) or time as long as the relay continues non-stop. In these relays, the team members can either be entirely on an escort boat or waiting on land for a relay exchange. These relays can be held in an ocean fighting against the elements or gain the benefit of swimming downstream in a river. They can be held over one period that can continue for days or weeks. For example, the 1500K Round Ireland Staged Relay Swi in 2006 was the first circumnavigation relay while the Camlough Lake Relay, also in Ireland, covered 680K over 10 days when 220 wetsuit-clad and non-wetsuit-clad swimmers came together to set a record that was recognized Guinness Book of World Records.

So take your choice of the eight fundamental types of open water swimming relays.

Photo above shows the Italian pursuit relay team.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven Munatones

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

The 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Programme

Wednesday, September 17th
Leave Glasgow to commence 2-day tour of Scotland [closest international airport is Glasgow]

Thursday, September 18th
Stay Mainland, North of Scotland

Friday, September 19th
14:00 - Swim Loch Lomond
17:00 - Head to Isle of Bute
19:30 - Scottish Banquet
21:30 - Dinner Dance

Saturday, September 20th
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
12:20 - Lunch and WOWSA Awards
13:40 – Speeches
15:40 - Round Table
19:00 - International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony

Sunday, September 21st
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
14:30 - Swim in St Ninian's Bay on the Isle of Bute

The luminaries of the open water swimming world who will be honored in Scotland will include:

* Sandra Bucha (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Jon Erikson (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Claudio Plit (Argentina), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Judith van Berkel-de Njis (Netherlands), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* David Yudovin (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Mercedes Gleitze (Great Britain), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* George Young (Canada), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Dale Petranech (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Contributor
* Melissa Cunningham (Australia), 2013 Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award winner
* Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* James Anderson (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Dr. Jane Katz (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Indonesian Swimming Federation, , International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Organisation
* Elizabeth Fry (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* Olga Kozydub (Russia), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Bering Strait Swim (international team), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* International Ice Swimming Association (Ram Barkai, founder, South Africa), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year

For additional articles on the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, visit:

* Olga Kozydub To Be Honored In Scotland
* Pádraig Mallon To Be Honored In Mount Stuart Castle
* Mount Stuart House, Splendid Setting For Swimming
* Colleen Blair To Kick-off Global Open Water Swimming Conference
* The Man Who Swims Better Than He Walks
* Joining In The Sea Goddess At The Hall Of Fame
* Mercedes Gleitze To Be Honored In Scotland
* The Incredible Career Of Merceded Gleitze
* Jon Erikson To Be Honoured In Florida
* The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze
* St Ninian's Bay To Host International Swim Conference

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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