Race Directors Having A Bad Day

Race Directors Having A Bad Day

Courtesy WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California. Race day. Pre-race day. Post-race day. The pressures and details placed upon open water swimming race directors – a vast majority who are good-natured volunteers – is tremendous. Buoys, food, entries, safety boats, bad weather, injuries, complaints, missed registration, newcomers, course questions, course layout, finish structure, volunteer recruitment, mass starts, close finishes, disqualifications, awards ceremonies, vendors, insurance, onshore staff, on-the-water safety crew, lead boat, radios, pre-race media, official times, website updates…the list of responsibilities goes on and on. Whether the race is held in the ocean in Oceania and a river in Romania, the race directors are the unsung heroes and heroines of the sport. They enable the sport to grow and the athletes to enjoy the thrill and camaraderie of competition. But the ultimate responsibilities are placed on their shoulders – with the myriad issues, problems and complaints that inevitably arise, they can never satisfy or please everyone. So the pressure on Colin Hill, race director for the Great North Swim who had to cancel the largest race in Great Britain this past week must have been tremendous. The sudden appearance of blue-green algae along the race course is a mind-splitting problem that leads to no sleep and a lack of good alternatives. But if there is any race director who could pull off the delicate balance between all the different constituencies in the event, it is Colin. Colin knows all sides of the open water world. Not only has he opened up the world of open water swimming to tens of thousands of newcomers to the sport who prefer to wear wetsuits, but he is also a successful English Channel swimmer who has swam a two-way crossing of Lake Windermere without a wetsuit. Not only does Colin enable and encourage people to get off their duffs and exercise, no matter what their level of ability, experience or age, but he also hosts four fastest competitive fields at the Great North Swim, the Great London Swim, the Great Scottish Swim, the Great East Swim and the Great Salford Swim with Olympic medalists and world champions from the pool, open water and triathlon communities. He balances the safety aspects of the sport with the media blitz and television coverage that is so welcomed by the athletes and their families and friends. Last week, Colin had to find the right balance between going on with the Great North Swim and the safety aspects caused by Mother Nature. “The call not to run the Great North swim was in the hands of the Environmental Agency. They tested on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of race week and the blue-green algae was visually very bad around the bay. The Environmental Agency then contacted the local Council who posted signs that stated ‘CAUTION TOXIC WATER’ and issued press release warnings. So we simply could not go ahead with that advice in place. Also we couldn’t wait until race day to see what happens as we have thousands of people who need the option to change their travel and accommodation plans.” Ultimately, the Great North Swim was postponed due to the prevalence of blue-green algae along the portion of Lake Windermere. A tough call that disappointed some and was acceptable to others, but one in which the safety of the athletes was the foremost in mind. But like swim attempts in the Channel, there is always another day and another window of opportunity. Copyright © 2008 – 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association