The Professor Is A GPS Genius With The Buoys

The Professor Is A GPS Genius With The Buoys

Professor Ricardo Ratto was out on Copacabana Beach in the pitch darkness at 3 am this Sunday morning in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

We come out early and set the [rectangular] turn buoys according to our GPS readings,” explains the FINA referee. “We have to know what the winds will be so we then set the buoys according to the impact of the winds on the water. Then we see what the impact of the currents and tides have on the turn buoys and the ropes and anchors. At 7 am, we then reset the buoys as necessary so the distance is correct and the tangent lines are straight between the buoys. Then, finally, before the race starts, we make any additional minor adjustments that must be made so the course is accurate.”

The King and Queen of the Sea always has some of the easiest-to-see, can’t-miss, colorful turn buoys on the global open water swimming circuit. The 2013 edition of the Rei e Rainha do Mar features green, orange, purple, white and blue 4-meter square buoys branded with the different race sponsors like Piraquê, AON, Carioca Gatorade, Circuit Light, Mormaii and Lei De Incentivo Ao Esporte dot the course with their landmark turn buoys.

In order to stay upright in winds, storms, waves and ocean swells, the anchor system was developed in consultation with Professor Ratto. “Each corner of the turn buoy is anchored by a heavy bag filled with sand. This is balanced by a fifth anchor tied the middle of the buoy. So even if many swimmers are on one side or hanging on the ropes, it will remain stable and upright. At the 2007 Pan American Games, we had huge surf and gigantic ocean swells here at Copacabana Beach. Because this is an ocean course facing the wide-open Atlantic Ocean, we have to be prepared for everything and anything.”

That they are for sure.

We find that one of the always interesting elements of an open water swimming competition is the size, shape, color and number of turn buoys used on a course. Buoys can be merely directional in nature (i.e., intermediate buoys or guide buoys) or indicate obligatory changes in direction (i.e., turn buoys).

The buoys can be color-coordinated or a mix bag of yellows, reds, pinks and whites. The buoys can also be numbered, but in most cases they are not.

The buoys are distinctively shaped and can also be called cans or floats depending on where you are in the world. The various types of turn buoys include:

1. Triangular pyramid buoy or tetrahedron buoy
2. Cylindrical buoy (used either vertically or horizontally)
3. Sausage buoy or banana buoy
4. Spherical buoy
5. Salmon egg buoy
6. Custom buoy of a specific dimension, shape and color
7. Rectangular buoy

And the King and Queen of the Sea always has some great big colorful ones.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association