drafting and pace setting in tandems and races

miklcctmiklcct London, United KingdomMem​ber

In solo marathon swimming, it is universally accepted that drafting and pace-setting are considered a form of assistance hence not allowed.

In marathon swimming races, the act of drafting other swimmers is integral to the sport at the top Olympic level (i.e. pack swimming), however, drafting off the escort draft is not allowed (Fina OW manual 2017). This is similar to drafting in cycling races that even in draft-legal races drafting off the leading motorcycle is not allowed. However there are some races which explicitly forbid this practice. For example, in USMS rules, drafting is prohibited in races where individual motorized support boat is used (303.9.5), and left to organiser's discretion in races where individual non-motorized support boat is used (303.9.6). In Rottnest Channel, the race rules forbid drafting and pace setting as well.

So what's the mainstream opinion now? I used to think that drafting and pace-setting are integral part to races that I devise strategy who I should draft or swim along-side in races in order to gain maximum benefit. We also do drafting practice in swim squads.

Outside races, in a "tandem swim" (i.e. at least two people swimming together sharing a support boat and crew), by definition pace setting happens because they are required to swim alongside to the other. In this case, is the act of drafting commonly accepted as well? (i.e. two swimmers position deliberately place themselves one after the other, sometimes rotating in order to save energy, benefiting both along the whole course)

A side question - does the MSF documented swim process ratify tandem swims in addition to solo and relay?



  • sosophiaphiasosophiaphia Colorado USAMember

    I am but a small fish in this big pond of accomplished marathon swimmers. However, I cannot imagine getting to the end of a swim and knowing that I did not complete it independently. If I train for 20 miles, I want to swim 20 miles on my own power. Period.

    Here is a recent example of a tandem swim, with each of the three participating swimmers documented separately. https://marathonswimmers.org/swims/2019/johmann-schmitt-jotautas/

  • brunobruno Barcelona (Spain)Senior Member

    @sosophiaphia said:
    However, I cannot imagine getting to the end of a swim and knowing that I did not complete it independently. If I train for 20 miles, I want to swim 20 miles on my own power. Period.


    I can understand drafting as a strategy to win a medal. But I find it stupid when it's to go from 54th to 52nd (specially in triathlon, where swimming is only a tiny amount of the race and therefore the final gain residual), or to take 2 minutes on a 2 hours swim.

    But most important, I just can't stand swimming for one minute behind the wake of another swimmer, eating (and seeing only) bubbles . So doing it for 10 hours would be simply hell!

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    It depends on the event. In some swims it’s part of the race and not allowed in others.

    Most FINA swims aren’t escorted anymore and swam on closed courses, so everyone is going to be on top of each other.

    In the olden days of the IMSA and FINA/USS when we had escorts in 15/25K races we had to stay 3 meters apart. Many of the pro marathons such as Magog and LSJ want you to be split up. Officials were blowing whistles at us for a while during the first hour of the 1999 Lac St Jean swim to break up the pack.

    I think it’s total BS to draft off of someone in a long swim like MIMS or Tampa Bay. I had a relay swimmer in the 2007 Lake Travis 20K draft off me and he took a foot to the face.

    Each swim has its own rules and aren’t always enforced in the same way. I wasn’t allowed near my escort craft during my 2001 EC swim as per my official, so I wouldn’t get eaten by the prop. I never considered drafting off the bow-wake, because I’m not wired that way. Grimsley drafted off of his boat the whole way during his record swim. It was allowed, so that’s how it goes.

    If it’s allowed, understood, and/or swimming in a tight course with lots of people; go for it. However, it’s a cheap way out of you’re swimming in a vast expanse.

    My $.02.


  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member

    If you are good enough to draft, you are going to beat me anyway. If you are slow enough to need to draft off me, I am going to beat you anyway. Just be like the first responders unleashed right after my group in the NYC triathlon and swim right over the top of me. As far as drafting off a support vehicle. Shame on you.

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