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Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Etiquette Of Drafting In The Open Water

Among open water swimmers, there are occasionally discussions and debates about the etiquette of drafting in open water races.

One such question in the US Masters Swimming forum was direct, "In a draft-legal open water swimming race, is it good or bad etiquette to draft off another person for all, majority or much of a race and then swing around and try to take the win?"

The answers can range from "it's not fair" to "just don't keep hitting the feet of the person in front of you" to "swimmers should take their turn at leading as well as drafting" to "it's a race and drafting is a winning tactic."

While a large majority of most of world's open water races sanctioned by governing bodies allow drafting, it is remains fundamentally illegal and is widely considered to be unsportsmanlike if you impede another swimmer's progress whether it is done intentionally or unintentionally. The issue becomes even more problematic because in most races, there are either no officials or inadequately trained officials who are not experienced in observing or judging the subtle tactics used by many. Therefore, impeding another swimmer and acting in an unsportsmanlike manner is often applied differently by different referees.

While impeding another swimmer should be universally judged in the same manner by all referees in all situations, this is practically an unrealistic goal at least in the short term. Among the athletes at various levels, the differences between purposeful and tactic drafting as performed by competitive elite and masters swimmers and incidental and occasional drafting done by individuals who are participating for fitness and a sense of accomplishment are dramatic.

Among competitive swimmers, drafting is an acquired and respected skill. At the competitive level, there are practiced tactics on drafting, pacing and positioning that have been researched and taught by the world's leading open water coaches. Among this crowd that is always looking for tactical advantages, there is mutual respect for those who draft and position well and then use the conservation of energy to sprint to victory (e.g., The Ilchenko).

The tactics can be subtle or very direct and explicit, even out of the eyesight of experienced referees. Among professional open water swimmers, tapping on an opponent's feet, pushing down on the soles of their rivals while trying to "get inside the head" of their competitors while drafting is one example an acquired skill that the elite athletes grudgingly accept.

While the British Olympic gold medal favorite Keri-Anne Payne is renowned for leading elite races from the front, her strategy is rare. More likely, Italian, German, American and Russian open water swimmers prefer take the lead only until the late stages of major races. They tend to win at the end by effectively conserving their energy in the first half by drafting and smart positioning throughout the race - and then moving into the lead or near the leader with 5-20% of the race left.

At the local amateur level among the most competitive, this also happens. It also occur among savvy veterans (e.g., masters swimmers) who find themselves swimming next to more aerobically fit age-group swimmers many years their junior. While some individuals might think this is unfair, ANY and ALL swimmers have the opportunity to draft in a competitive environment,

But for individuals who simply want to enjoy a race and the camaraderie of open water swimming while swimming from Point A to Point B, drafting behind or alongside and then "sprinting" ahead "to win" can be viewed as poor etiquette. Certainly, tapping on the feet or constantly bumping into the person ahead of you is in poor taste at any level, but especially in a mass participation race among the slower swimmers where money and awards are not in play.

As a countermeasure in cases where you are being bothered by someone behind you or alongside of you, it is often effective if you swim laterally away from the - even for a few meters or strokes - and the problem often resolves itself. Alternatively - and this has occurred at the professional and competitive levels - you can also simply stop or do some easy backstroke or breaststroke until the offender has passed by and you have effectively switched positions on your drafting opponent.

Photo of swimmers drafting at the European Open Water Swimming Championships by Giorgio Scala.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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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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