When open water swimming race directors are faced with unseasonably high air and water temperatures, they are wise to consider modifying their race to maintain high levels of safety standards.

While FINA does not have any specific rules on extreme temperatures(either cold or too warm), experienced race directors understand the risk, especially when over 85% of the 26 recorded deaths in the sport of open water swimming since 2009 have been in warm-water conditions.

These race directors are wise to consider cancellation of a race, especially when the age and physical conditioning of all the participants are taken into consideration. However, there are alternatives to cancellation:

• Start the race earlier in the day, even just past sunrise
• Start the race later in the late afternoon or early evening in order to avoid the mid-day heat
• Add more feeding stations and safety personnel to the course
• Modify the course layout so the swimmers are always near shore or near shallow water
• Require swimmers to have paddlers or escorts
• Shorten the race
• Disallow the use of wetsuits
• If it is a loop course, require the athletes to check in with doctors positioned at one spot along the course (where the athletes literally have to stop – momentarily – and answer a specific question and look into the eye of the medical professionals) • Require swimmers to apply white zinc oxide on their backs to serve as a form of additional sun protection
• Recommend swim caps are not used, although this is not always practically possible for some athletes
• Change the awards from awarding the fastest swimmers to those who most closely predict their finish times. This may effectively encourage some people to swim more slowly than they otherwise would in a competitive environment

A combination of these recommendations may present a situation that is relatively safer than the alternative of doing nothing in warm-weather (air + water) conditions.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source


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