Team Pursuit In The Open Water

Team Pursuit In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

We have been enjoying the 2010 Vancouver Olympiers on TV and have observed how similar short-track speed skating is to open water racing.

We also observed how tactical the Nordic skiers are and their lessons for competitive open water swimming.

Again last night, we were enthralled by the teamwork, drafting, positioning and pacing of the Olympic team pursuit speed skaters where groups of 3 speed skaters choreographed around the oval ice course with teamwork, precision and grace under tremendously aerobic-taxing conditions.

Open water swimmers will be able to similarly show their teamwork, precision and grace after the 2010 USA Swimming National 5 km and 10 km Open Water Swimming Championships with unique Open Water Pursuit races.

While the best young open water swimmers of America and Canada will be competing for spots on their respective national teams in order to represent their countries at the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Championships in July, others will be able to compete in the new Open Water Pursuit race.

The Open Water Pursuit will take place in Marine Stadium in Long Beach after the USA Swimming National 5K Open Water Swimming Championships on June 6th. Held in a flat-water GPS-marked course with immediate guide buoys, there will be two distances: a short-track 2 km course (one full loop of the Marine Stadium course) and a long-track 4 km course (two full loops of the Marine Stadium course).

The Open Water Pursuit concept is for teams of swimmers to start and finish together. Swimmers are strongly encouraged to swim together, drafting and pacing off of one another as speed skaters or cyclists do. Swimming together, teams can swim faster than individuals swimming by themselves.

The official time of the team is the time that the last person of the team crosses the finish line. This concept places a premium on optimal drafting, positioning and pacing – three very important skill sets for competitive open water swimmers and triathletes.

The reason for this new concept is because FINA will add a 3-person 5 km team time trial relay to its World Swimming Championships schedule beginning in 2011 and to its World Junior Open Water Swimming Championships schedule beginning in 2012. Plus, it is simply fun.

There will be a staggered start where the teams will be start 30 seconds apart. Teams will receive a team number that will be written on the shoulders of each relay member. Teams will start in numerical order (Team #1 first, Team #2 second, etc.). The start order will be randomly selected, so some teams will undoubtedly pass other teams.

In order to encourage participation, there will be several different divisions and categories. Divisions include the Non-wetsuit (i.e., FINA Swimsuit Legal), Wetsuit, Fin, Triathlete, Military and Corporate divisions. Categories include Solo (1 swimmer), Duo (2 swimmers), Trio (3 swimmers) and Quad (4 swimmers).

In order to accommodate individual swimmers who would like to join a team, these individuals can submit their current 1000-yard time with their registration. Swimmers of approximately the same speed will be partnered together.

Pre-race Clinics will be held in Santa Monica in order to help teammates learn how to optimally draft and position themselves during the race. But the innovations will also include up-close-and-personal viewing for interested fans and spectators. Seats on spectator boats along the race course will be available during the USA Swimming National 5K and 10K Open Water Swimming Championships and the Team Time Trial Challenge. 7-time world professional marathon swimming champion Shelley Taylor-Smith and 2-time world masters open water swimming champion Gerry Rodrigues will explain the races and are available to answer questions about the sport of open water swimming on these spectator boats.

The rules for this new event include the following:

1. If one swimmer in the team wears a wetsuit or a technical swimsuit not currently approved by FINA, then the entire team will compete in the Wetsuit Division.
2. If one swimmer in the team wears fins, then the entire team will compete in the Fin Division.
3. Relay members in the Triathlon Division may wear any type of wetsuit or technical swimsuit, but no fins.
4. All team swimmers must be currently serve in the military (either active duty or National Guard) in order to compete in the Military Division.
5. All team swimmers must be employees (either full- or part-time) in order to compete in the Corporate Division.

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones