Every summer, swimmers from all walks of life flock to Lake Tahoe, Ca., to compete in the Olympic Club Trans Tahoe Relay. Olympians, Masters swimmers and past college teammates alike eagerly await to partake in this annual event. Founded in 1976, the Trans Tahoe Relay has “become one of the largest open water swims in the world, promoting team spirited competition between swimming clubs and other groups and organizations,” according to the event’s website.
As explained by retired competitive swimmer and Trans Tahoe competitor Ursula Dailey, “Every year, the Olympic Club of San Francisco hosts this relay, which covers about ten miles across the width of Lake Tahoe, from a beach in Nevada to another beach in California.” Members on each team take turns swimming for 30 minutes, then rotate every 10 minutes until reaching the finish line. While one member of the team is in the water, the others follow along on boat a besides them.
Some teams aim to break division titles and put their open water abilities to the test. Others, however, are simply there to spend some quality time with former or current teammates and enjoy the panoramic views. As Dailey points out, “The Trans Tahoe is not only a race but a social event where swimmers and ‘swammers’ from pools and open water alike can hang out and enjoy some down time together.”
Flights depart from the beach starting at 7:30 a.m. and continue throughout the morning based on division. The event website explains the breakdown, “Team Divisions will be determined by sex and the combined ages of the six individual team members.” Relays in the mixed division consist of three female and three male competitors, while relays in the open division include a random assortment of competitors. Colored caps are assigned to all the teams in the same division. The boat serves to direct the swimmers in the right direction of the course. Most competitors finish within the three to six hour time range.
The lead-off swimmer from each team must check-in on the beach at the starting area from 6:30am to 7:15am at Sand Harbor. Each team must have also checked-in the night before at the Captain’s meeting. We need to know exactly how many teams are in the water. Any team not checked in will be withdrawn from the race. If all team members are not present, do not start the race.
All lead-off swimmers shall start on shore and between the two starting buoys. Swim buoys will be extremely visible. All swimmers must wear the cap color representing their division (handed out at the Captain’s meeting). We will have paddle boarders, two jet skis and four safety boats that will escort the swimmer to the escort boat transition area. See Map titled “START”.
Team Boats will need to stay outside the starting area and will not be able to enter the race area until the swimmers have passed the release area, approximately .5 miles from the start. Swimmers should swim in the direction of their escort boat without crossing the paths of other swimmers. We cannot and will not allow any escort boat to approach the starting beach for any reason. Escort boats should remain 500 yards off shore prior to and after the start of the race. An Olympic Club Committee boat will patrol this area and will ask boats to move back.
Swimmers on the boats should start a watch so that exchanges between swimmers takes place at correct times. The exchanges must take place within 30 seconds of the official transition time.
If there is a problem near the start, please let the Committee boat know. After the start of the race, do not move toward shore to find your lead-off swimmer. Boats should allow plenty of room for all swimmers as they swim through the middle of the waiting boats. Do not cut off other swimmers when approaching your team’s swimmer.
As stated on the entry form, each team consists of six swimmers. Each member swims 30 minutes for the first leg. After each member has completed the 30 minute leg, each member will complete a 10 minute leg and then 10 minute leg(s) or until the team has reached the finish line. Teams must maintain their swimming order throughout the race. A swimmer completing his/her leg must physically tag the next swimmer at the proper time of exchange.
* No drafting permitted behind boat. Swimmer must swim ahead of (or to the side of) the boat.
* If boat becomes inoperative during event, swimmer must stop and stay with boat until it is functional. Any team observed to have an unsafe distance between boat and swimmer will be disqualified.
* If swimmer is not able to complete his/her leg, team is disqualified.
* Use of wet suits, tri-suits , buoy devices or devices used to protect against cold are not allowed. Swimmers may use extra swim cap or thermal cap beneath colored swim cap issued by the race.
The normal water temperature at Sand Harbor Beach front is about 60-62 degrees; there is a steady drop- off to about 55-58 degrees in the deeper water in the middle of the lake. If you have any doubt on your capability to do the swim under these circumstances, please do not do it. For those of you who plan to do the swim you should make every effort to be as prepared as possible. Hypothermia is a very real possibility for everyone no matter how prepared or experienced you are. Please plan accordingly.
The finish line is at Skylandia Beach. Boats should set their bearings for the Tahoe City/Dollar Point area. Upon approaching the finish area, you will see a large, orange tetrahedron buoy. The finishing swimmer must turn right, swim away from the pilot boat towards the finish chute on the beach.
Your finishing swimmer must have the timing chip fastened to their right or left ankle.
Escort boats should not follow swimmer towards finish area. Escort boats may then let other swimmers off by one of the options mentioned above.
This swim will be considered officially complete at 2:00 PM. The beach and meadow are available for your use during and after the swim. You may picnic with your friends and family. Dogs are not allowed on the beach.