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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How Often Should You Sight In The Open Water

Sighting is the act of seeing or navigating in the open water, generally towards landmarks, turn buoys, escort boats or the finish. It is a crucial aspect of open water swimming. If you sight incorrectly - or too much or not at all - during a race, you will utilize too much energy for the wrong purposes and may end up swimming much longer and farther than necessary.

A common question asked by newbie open water swimmers and triathletes is “How often should I sight?”

Although some coaches have different opinions or offer definitive explanations on sighting, this question does not have one simple answer. The optimal number for individual swimmers depend on a variety of factors including their navigational IQ, the water conditions, where they are in the race, who is around them, the number of buoys and escort boats, and the layout of the course.

Navigational IQ:
Like intellectual IQ, everyone has a different navigational IQ. Like body types, the optimal sighting rhythm for every individual varies. While some people have an innate sense of direction, others do not and will never develop that skill. For every swimmer and triathlete who swims with a balanced stroke and can swim relatively long distances on a straight line, there are hundreds who find it impossible to swim straight without constant re-positioning and re-directing their bodies. Therefore, optimal sighting may range from once every 10 strokes for those who easily veer off a straight-line tangent to those who can nail a thumb line for as many as 50 strokes.

This navigational IQ can be related to how balanced one’s stroke is. Breathing, a cross-over stroke or cross-over kick, or an uncoordinated sighting technique are various ways to throw off one’s balance. While some swimmers can incorporate lifting their head and sighting into their stroke quite naturally and without a negative impact on their straight-line forward progress, others have to disrupt their normal stroke in order to sight.

Thus, a swimmer with an inefficient stroke or off-balance breathing usually veers slightly to one side or the other. It behooves them to focus on their swimming stroke as a means to swim more efficiently.

Water Conditions:
The conditions of the water also play a huge role. If the water is extremely choppy or wavy, or there are lateral currents, you will need to sight more often. These conditions can often cause one to become disoriented and the elements will work against your desire to swim straight. If you do not keep some type of landmark in sight, you may find yourself swimming off course.

If you are swimming by yourself, you probably want to sight more often. While risky, an athlete can gamble and make a tactical move by taking a different course than the other athletes. In this case, the athlete must base the decision on more than a hunch; they want to be as certain as possible that they are making the right decision and then separating themselves from the pack as they confirm their line is, indeed, faster. On the other hand, if you are swimming in a pack of people, you are safe to sight less and conserve energy. Chances are greater that with many swimmers, the group is going to be headed in the right direction.

Competition:
If you place yourself near an experienced veteran or someone who you know has swum the course before, you can be more confident that they are probably taking the optimal course. This will enable you to sight slightly less, conserving energy as you can.

Conversely, if you are swimming near swimmers who have never swum the course before or less experienced swimmers, then you want to sight slightly more frequently than normal. In a pack of newbies (either to the sport or to the course), you want to confirm your course is spot on.

Course Layout and Boat Traffic:
You are also lucky if there is a lead boat or escort kayak near you. In that case, your best bet is to just follow the boat. It is rare that the boat pilot or kayaker is not taking the optimal course. However, this does NOT mean that you never need to look up. Just to be safe, you should always have some landmarks that you can occasionally check.

The number and placement of turn buoys and guide buoys will also have a great influence over your sighting pattern. The more buoys on the course, the easier your navigational responsibilities will be. If you see the buoy anchors underwater, make a mental note if there are any currents. If you see the rope being stretched to one direction or the other, this will give you a clear indication which direction the current is running. Adjust your course based on this information.

A runner would never run off-course, a cyclist sticks to the optimal route, but an open water swimmer is at a distinct disadvantage over other endurance athletes. Sighting is one of the key elements of open water swimming. It is a skill just as important as drafting and pacing. The frequency of sighting that should be done by swimmers depends on the individual, the race and numerous situational factors.

As you swim, look to your right and look to your left. If you find yourself swimming alone and unsure of your exact position or intended direction, it is well worth your time to stop for several seconds to collect your bearings. Do not hesitate to do some breaststroke while looking around or take a number of head-up strokes until you gain confidence of your course. In some cases, as you swim past safety personnel or official boats on the course, yell loudly and ask them if you are swimming correctly. More than likely, they will point you in the right direction.

Photos show FINA 10K Marathon Swimming World Cup champion Chad Ho and 2011 World Swimming Championship 5 km team pursuit gold medalist sighting and winning the 2013 Midmar Mile in South Africa.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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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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2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac



An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

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