Polizia Stay The Course

Simone Ercoli and his fellow Polizia teammate Martina Grimaldi both remain firmly in control of today’s Traversee internationale du lac Memphremagog. The Italian duo’s pace and their presence are dictating what the other swimmers are doing as they approach the halfway point of the 34 km professional marathon race.

A surge here and a surge there may scramble the pack a bit, but the Italian Polizia remain fully in charge.

With whitecaps blowing constantly in the faces of the swimmers, it is as if they were swimming upstream, if not uphill.

And the Italians are well-prepared for any and every contingency and eventuality. Each swimmer is escorted by a small motorboat with a local guide and the swimmer’s coach.

French-speaking coaches can communicate well with their local guides in Quebec and English-speaking coaches are similarly fortunate. But sign language and hand motions seem to be the ubiquitous dialect on lac Memphremagog today.

Each boat flies the national flag.  The name of the swimmer are emblazoned on the sides of the boat. But with the whitecaps and waves splashing into the small watercraft, bonds are quickly created between the local captains and the international crew of coaches and handlers.

On the escort boat, the coaches bring food and drinks, white boards and feeding sticks, goggles and biodegradable cups.  There are radios for communication and life jackets for all.

Bananas and water, gel packs and sandwiches, commercial drinks and customized solutions: every swimmer has their own menu and timetable to feed. But a 15-20 minute feeding schedule is generally maintained by all.

During the race, the coaches and pilots are constantly communicating. By French or English, drawing or pointing, they get their messages across. Like men in battle or players on a team, they quickly form bonds and learn to depend on one another.

Their job is to protect, guide, and motivate their swimmer. Like members of the Royal Guard or Presidential Duty, the crew are bodyguards, watch dogs, and sentries constantly on the lookout. Orders are barked and instructions are given in short blasts: Left!  Right!  Feed!  Go!

There is no need or time for conversation or discussion. Time is always of the essence, especially as the skies darken, rains fall, and winds increase. But as the conditions on the lake deteriorate, the bonds between crew and swimmer forge even more profound ties.  Words become fewer as intensity increases.

The mini ecosystem on the small exposed boats becomes its own little world. The focus on the swimmer and the conditions continues as the concerns of the outside world fade.

More to follow as the storm comes moving over the lake (final race results below).

1. Joanes Hedel (France) 7:24:43
2. Xavier Desharnais (Canada) 7:30:21
3. Evgenij Pop Acev (Macedonia) 7:31:36
4. Bertrand Venturi (France) 7:34:36
5. Damian Blaum (Argentina) 7:35:09
6. Tomi Stefanovski (Macedonia) 7:37:26
7. Alexander Studzinski (Germany) 7:37:42
8. Tsvetan Yordanov (Bulgaria) 7:39:19
9. Tiago Sato (Brazil) 8:56:30

Richard Weinberger (Canada), DNF
Simone Ercoli (Italy), DNF
Jarrod Poort (Australia), DNF
Guillermo Bertola (Argentina), DNF

1. Olga Kozydub (Russia) 7:37:27
2. Silvie Rybarova (Czech Republic) 7:37:29
3. Martina Grimaldi (Italy) 7:37:30
4. Celia Barrot (France) 7:37:31
5. Karla Šitić (Croatia) 7:47:35
6. Pilar Geijo (Argentina) 7:50:20
7. Esther Nuñez Morera (Spain) 8:12:15
8. Lexie Kelly (USA) 8:51:51
Mallory Mead (USA), DNF
Rita Vanessa Garcia (Argentina), DNF
Noelia Petti (Argentine), OTL

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming
Steven Munatones