No Refund, Why Not?

No Refund, Why Not?

We just read a reasonable justification about the money that is spent by race directors prior to the start of an open water swim.

The explanation was produced by the NYC Swim and posted here.

The NYC Swim explanation describes the organization’s efforts, “We do our best to keep the swim price reasonable and provide a high value in return.

The fee includes all support services, from event planning and the pre-race webinars to boat and kayak support, on-water race officials, souvenir T-shirts for you and your crew, and more.

Bottom-line, the Manhattan Swim is a logistical challenge that requires an entire year to plan and implement. Unlike other major open water events, this race takes place around one of the world’s most expensive locales and one that is not friendly to water-based human-powered events. Everything in New York is expensive. While we rely on the generosity of volunteers, we also spend considerable money in advance to secure the resources, locations, security personnel, safety personnel, food venues, meeting spaces, permits, insurance, and more. Even if the event is canceled at last minute, due to forces beyond our control such as weather or government shutdown, almost all monies paid at the time of enrollment—except for race-day boater stipends—have been used to spent on the supplies, services, and/or service providers.

The Manhattan Island Marathon Swim is not just a 7-10-hour swim around Manhattan. It entails more than a half-dozen locations (North Cove, South Cove, Pier 25, Peter J. Sharp Boathouse, Pier 40, Parking Garage, pre-event meeting space, and post-event restaurant), several hundred individuals (swimmers, crew, boaters, paddlers, boat crew, race observers, race marshals, ambulance drivers, EMTs, security guards, staff for all the locations, and land-based volunteers), and the proprietary website that ties all the disparate parties together and tracks the swimmers.

The expenses that follow, and listed in no particular order, are just a “few” of the non-recoverable expenditures: ambulance services, awards (non-medals), portable bathroom rentals, boat banners (required by the Coast Guard), boat captain outreach/recruitment, bookkeeping, swim caps, credit card fees, directional signage, website domain and hosting, EMTs, power boats, volunteer/paddler snacks and meals, GPS tracking devices, insurance, paddler outreach and recruitment including trade show booths, kayak rentals, legal services, marine whistles, medals (swimmers and paddlers), marine radio purchases, mylar blankets, power boat docking fees, paddler bibs, vehicle (cars/trucks) parking fees, permits for multiple locations, PR and social media support, pre-race meeting space rental and webinars, race communication support, race buoys (plus ropes and anchors), spectator “SCRIM”/fencing, multiple site plans design and layout, on-water operational staff, over-night security for kayaks stowage, restaurant, shirts, shuttles, staff (pre-race and race day), storage rental, gasoline and toll reimbursement for paddlers/volunteers, goody bags, vehicle rental, videography, and website development

Similarly, many race directors around the world incur non-recoverable expenses before any fees are received from swimmers. Some race directors make money and the best of them re-invest it in the sport, their local swimming communities and their swims (like World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year nominees Doug Woodring, Pádraig Mallon, Rafael Gutiérrez Mesa, Vojislav Mijić and Wayne Riddin). Some race directors simply break-even. But none of them want to – or can afford to – lose money.

So when there are no refunds in a race that is cancelled due to weather or water conditions, please consider the upfront costs that are borne by hard-working race directors. Or, alternatively, offer to help out the race director in future years and learn what it takes to put on a safe, memorable, challenging open water swim for swimmers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

Photo shows athletes swimming towards the finish of the North Shore Challenge on Oahu.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones