Open Water Swimming Rule Changes Are Adopted by USMS

Open Water Swimming Rule Changes Are Adopted by USMS

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

United States Masters Swimming implemented some major changes to its open water swimming rules at this year’s convention. The changes involve water temperatures, water quality guidelines, drafting, swimwear, and independent safety monitors.

1. According to new rule 302.2.2A (Water Temperature), an open water swim shall not begin if the water temperature is less than 60°F (15.6°C) unless heat-retaining swimwear is required of all swimmers or a USMS-approved thermal plan is in place. A swim in which heat retaining swimwear is required of all swimmers shall not begin if the water temperature is less than 57°F (13.9°C) unless a USMS-approved thermal plan is in place. A swim shall not begin if the water temperature exceeds 85°F (29.45°C).

USMS Comments: “The rationale for these changes are due to athlete safety. This proposal aims to reduce significantly the risks from thermal issues from swimming in water that is dangerously cold or hot for most United States Masters Swimming members, but allows some flexibility for those who choose to swim in wetsuits. The United States Masters Swimming open water swimmer population, taken as a whole, are typically not elite athletes, in general do not acclimatize, spend more time (in some cases, much more time) in the water, have more health-related problems, and are much more likely to be using medications which can alter their adaptability.”

Anna Lea Matysek, Membership Director of U.S. Masters Swimming, explains the new rule, “Swims may be held in water that is below 57°F as long as the organizers have a plan in place to deal with a swimmer who might suffer from hypothermia during the swim.”

2. According to new rule 302.2.B, if the water quality meets the standards of the local testing authority, the water quality will be deemed acceptable.

USMS Comments: “The rationale for these changes are due to athlete safety. Using the standard and similar language adopted by USA Swimming in Rule 702.3.1, modified for flexibility, this proposal aims to reduce the risks from swimming in water of unsafe quality.

3. According to new rule 303.3.5, in any swim in which individual escorts are required and motorized escorts are allowed, receiving assistance by any drafting is prohibited. Swimmers must attempt to remain 3 meters or more from other swimmers, except when rounding buoys, when overtaking other swimmers when space is not readily available, when unescorted at the start and finish of the swim, and when the swimmer’s escort craft becomes disabled as per 301.3.1 and 303.3.4. Incidental or accidental incursion into the 3-meter zone of another swimmer shall not be the basis for disqualification.

4. According to new rule 303.3.6, in any swim in which individual escorts are required and non-motorized escorts are used, the event director may choose to allow drafting or prohibit drafting in accordance with 303.3.5.

USMS Comments: “The rationale for these changes are due to the safety for all swimmers. When swimmers are tightly bunched in an open water swim, it is very challenging for individual escort craft of any kind to avoid cutting off or hitting swimmers, particularly in heavy winds, waves, or currents. This danger is even more acute when these escort craft are motorized. Fortunately, in the long swims in which motorized individual escorts are most likely to be required, the prevailing swimmer ethos frowns on drafting.”

5. According to new rule 303.7.2, swimwear shall include only a swimsuit, cap or caps (which may include including those made of neoprene when the water temperature is not greater than 78°F) and goggles. Swim caps shall be defined as head gear conforming to a traditional swim cap design and shall not extend to protect the neck and shoulders. Nose clips, ear plugs, wristwatches and grease are also allowed.

USMS Comments: “The rationale for these changes are due to athlete safety. Heat-retaining caps may be unsafe in warm water. In addition, the term “may” allows event directors to disallow the use of neoprene caps in cold water; if swimmers need the extra warmth of a neoprene cap for safety reasons, they should be allowed to wear them. With the proposed water temperature limitations (302.2.2A), there would be no need to give the event director this discretion. This change also makes this rule consistent with proposed 303.7.3B.”

6. According to new rule 303.7.2B, the swimmer shall wear only one swimsuit in one or two pieces. All swimsuits shall be made from textile materials. For both men and women, the swimsuit shall not cover the neck, and shall not extend past the shoulder, nor below the knees ankles.

USMS Comments: “This broadens the scope of the USMS open water swimwear rule to include suits now legal in USA Swimming and FINA competition, by updating the coverage rules to be more consistent with the USA Swimming open water swimwear rule (701.4.4) and the FINA Bylaws that apply to open water swimwear (BL 8.4 & 8.5), both of which went into effect on June 1, 2010.”

7. According to new rule 303.8.3, an Independent Safety Monitor shall be approved by the LMSC sanctioning officer and shall be independent of the event organizing body. The Independent Safety Monitor shall be present at the event to assure that the approved safety plan is implemented and that adequate safety precautions are in place for existing conditions. The Independent Safety Monitor shall have the authority to revoke the sanction on the day of the swim if adequate safety precautions are not in place, and shall notify all participants of the revocation before the beginning of the swim if the event organizer proceeds with the swim.

USMS Comments: “Currently, there is no mechanism in place to assure that USMS safety requirements are followed by event hosts at event sites. If USMS is to require safety standards, they must be enforceable at the LMSC level.”

Photo shows masters swimmers Julian Rusinek, Lynn Kubasek and Scott Zornig.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association