Officiating In Open Water Swimming Competitions

Officiating In Open Water Swimming Competitions

The responsibilities and mechanics of officiating basketball, soccer or volleyball are generally well-known among sports fans. But even within the world of open water swimming, the responsibilities and mechanics of officiating the rules are much less well-known. In international competitions and many high-level domestic or continental competitions, the rules of FINA game are followed.

Typically, the Head Referee is in the lead boat following the fastest swimmers in the lead pack. An Assistant Referee is in another boat following the slower swimmers in the subsequent packs. Each of these Referees has an assistant in their boat to help them.

Throughout the race, the Head Referee and the Assistant Referee have whistles in their mouths and stand attentively as they closely watch the swimmers for any infractions or possibilities of infractions. When warnings must be given or infractions occur, the Referees blow their whistle, point to the swimmers who committed the infractions and make an officiating decision and call.

If, for example, swimmer #12 commits an infraction, then the Referee blows his whistle, points to the swimmer, raises his flag and informs their assistant. The assistant then writes the swimmer’s number on a whiteboard, raises the whiteboard up so all swimmers can see it and logs this information on the Referee’s Report. Additionally, the assistant calls in and informs the Chief Judge of the swimmer’s number and time of infraction. The Chief Judge officially logs this information for the record.

Here is this sequence at the 2009 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships in Fort Myers, Florida by Head Referee Sid Cassidy:



According to the Open Water Swimming Dictionary, the following terms are used in the sport:

Yellow Flag or Yellow Card (noun): A yellow-colored penalty card or flag that indicates an official warning to a swimmer due to unsportsmanlike conduct or an infraction of the rules during an open water race. The head referee gave a yellow card to the swimmer who cut across the back of his competitor. Synonym: warning.

Red Card (noun): A red-colored penalty card that indicates the immediate disqualification of a swimmer due to unsportsmanlike conduct or a serious infraction of the rules during an open water race. The head referee gave a red card to the swimmer who pulled back his competitor around the turn buoy. Synonyms: disqualification, DQ.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source