Question about Streamers

ScottZornigScottZornig Charter Member
edited September 2013 in General Discussion
I understand the purpose of a streamer. However, I have been able to find limited footage on exactly how it works. I understand the flag is either directly ahead or underneath the swimmer. Does a streamer, the flag, pole or rope in any way disrupt the water in front of the swimmer? Does it create even the smallest hole in the water or the slightest amount of draft? Please help me understand this. Thank you.

Scott Zornig


  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    edited September 2013
    There were a couple pictures and videos on DN's blog showing it. It looked about 20 feet long.

    YOu can see it a bit here:
    lit up for night viewing:
    "Independent" observer Hinkle calls it a ribbon:

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • ScottZornigScottZornig Charter Member
    So does the ribbon, flag, rope or pole create a hole in the water directly in front of the swimmer? Please help me understand.

    Thank you.
  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    So does the ribbon, flag, rope or pole create a hole in the water directly in front of the swimmer? Please help me understand.

    Thank you.

    I've never swam behind a streamer, but based on what I remember from fluid dynamics in college, it would have to. But I'd be willing to guess that the effect in terms of a draft wouldn't be big.

  • ScottZornigScottZornig Charter Member
    I guess I am little surprised that the MS community is not jumping all over the use of a Streamer in DN's swim. There is obviously a huge navigational benefit it provides. Of course, it could be argued that GPS falls in to the same category as a Streamer. In other words, if a swimmer's boat is allowed to use GPS, why can’t a swimmer be guided by an object in the water? They do the same exact thing which is to keep a swimmer on course. On the other hand, if the Streamer results in even the smallest amount of water displacement, this is a flagrant violation of basic marathon swimming rules. Even if the Streamer provides as little as a 10 second advantage every hour, this would “fly in the face of our rules.”
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited September 2013
    I guess I am little surprised that the MS community is not jumping all over the use of a Streamer in DN's swim.
    In this case, I think it's mostly about "picking your battles."

    Also, they're used in the Tsugaru Strait, so there's some precedent for them as a geographical exception. Not that I like it...
  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    Even if the Streamer provides as little as a 10 second advantage every hour, this would “fly in the face of our rules.”

    I would be surprised if the hydrodynamic advantage is that large, myself (I don't remember enough from fluids to perform the necessary calculations).
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    I'm no scientist, so what I say next has no basis in fact, except that I believe it to be true: I don't think there is any fluid dynamic benefit to streamers. And I don't see them as any different from having a boat or kayak next to me keeping me on course.

    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • So are streamers "legal" for an approved channel swim; or would they fall under the category of an "assisted" swim for recording purposes?
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    Azotter wrote:
    So are streamers "legal" for an approved channel swim; or would they fall under the category of an "assisted" swim for recording purposes?

    They are legal for one of the two Tsuguru Channel swimming associations in a TC crossing, they are "illegal" for pretty much everywhere else AFAIK.

    Personally, I think "non compliant" is a better term to use for things that are against the rules of a particular organization; not everything that is disallowed actually provides assistance (CSA and jammers for example) - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    I personally find the streamer utter nonsense. While I haven't written yet about the Diana Nyad panel, I'll point out a couple of things (in the absence of having a recording myself to make public, you'll have to accept my memory) and this is one of the detail things on the call that I find odd.

    Diana Nyad spoke about how direction streamers were used in Japan by fishermen "for more than a hundred years" (or similar). I couldn't see the relevance of this at all, like a lot of other stuff. Streamers are used Tsugaru, I believe. I'll leave you to make your own conclusions about the relevance of this into Diana Nyad's swim based on Steve Munatones participation and support.

    Diana Nyad also said that she was incapable of swimming close to the boat, despite practice, that she would always swim away from it. Others can supply the direct quote if they will. Therefore, she needed a streamer.

    I can't even begin to get my head around this as an explanation and the implications.

    It seems to me a streamer can provide assistance in potentially four ways:

    1. Artificial assistance in direction, the very same as a pool lane, because the small variations present as swimmers constantly adjust relative to a boat are eliminated.

    2: Possible drag assistance.

    3: Possible covert pulling aid.

    4: Water flow indication. With little natural visible indicators of water flow to a swimmer in open water, a streamer, such as that visible in the Diana Nyad videos, makes the localised flows obvious to the swimmer.

  • I think streamers are a tremendous luxury which would contribute significantly to swim success, but their contribution is mostly to the mentality and peace of mind to the swimmer.
  • Here's a good video of a streamer in action.

    It appears to be hanging from a fishing rod by a very thin line. I doubt you could calculate any assistance to the swimmer from potential drag caused by this line. There would appear to be no drag benefit from the actual streamer itself.
    From this it appears that it's sole purpose is to assist navigation. To my mind it makes it easier to keep your position relative to the pilot boat, so is therefore an aid.
    Also from this video, the streamer would only appear to be relevant where there is pretty good underwater visibility. It would be difficult to see in murky water.
  • ScottZornigScottZornig Charter Member
    It appears to me that the line might be more substantial than a fishing line. At minimum, the line would need to have weights which would help in minimally disrupting the water in front of the swimmer.

    On another note, if the Tsuguru Channel swimming Association requires the use of a Streamer (only to protect the swimmer from Sharks), then why can't they float the streamer behind the swimmer instead of in front?

    Question....between Steamers, Electronic shark shields, shark bombs, divers, cages and pattern suits, boat motors and magnetic speakers, is it even possible to see a shark during an marathon swim?
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    edited September 2013
    I breath only to my right. Great for when the escort boat is on the right. But if I switch to the other side of the boat, I still breath to my right and cant see the boat. So, every few strokes (maybe 30 seconds), I have to take a forced look to the left (maybe take a breath or not). Because I don't naturally breath to the left, the forced look really affects my stroke, mental effort and subsequent physical effort to get back in position. If there was a streamer at six feet below the surface, it would be in view permanently and I would swim far more placidly.

    A streamer has a huge additional benefit and far different to the benefit of a GPS. Put all these benefits together, plus all the others we are gradually inventing, into one package of benefits, and we risk losing the integrity of what we should be doing without them.
  • I second all the criticism expressed for the streamer as it clearly provides assistance and, honestly, defies the whole concept of swimming freely in the open.

    One question though: why is it used in Japan to protect from sharks? I mean, how would it provide protection? Thanks!
  • A little late to this thread, but would like to contribute the following comments, based on my recent Tsugaru Channel swim last Thursday 9/12/13. On the day before the swim we conducted a dockside meeting with the boat captain, observer and my crew person - ie. the entire swim group.

    Among other topics we discussed the use of a streamer. Both the captain observer strongly recommended its use --- for the following reasons:

    1. It was clear that conditions were going to be very challenging - current, tide and wind were all going to be questionable factors. We were going to need all of our possible swim window maximized to succeed, and any time spent zig zagging was goign to decrease my chances.

    2. Most of the swims they had done used the streamer (including registered swims ie Stephen Redmond, etc.) The swimmer could opt not to use a streamer (eg Brad McVetta) but its use in Tsugaru was the norm, at least with their swims (not sure about Ishii's swims - perhaps Penny or others could fill us in)

    3. On a successful relay swim two days before mine, a shark approached the boat / swimmer / streamer and, so i was told, went for the streamer - not the swimmer. Contrary to what i heard previously, Captain Mizushima stated tht shark sightings were NOT uncommon, and cited the shark biting the streamer as a key reason to use it.

    Against the advice of my crew person, who wanted to ensure that I had an official, unassisted swim, I decided to use the streamer. My swimwas a DNF, so the assisted / unassisted issue is moot, but I would like to make the following, first hand comments about the streamer for everyone's use and comment:

    a. The streamer was mounted on a pole which was tensioned by a guyline and located I would say about 2 meters off the port side of the boat. It was white cloth, about 4-5 meters long.

    b. I do not believe there was any drafting or advantage gained by it being pulled along. The rope line in the water was minimal and the streamer was below the swimmer. The only issue I had - once early on - was swimming into the streamer rope. Not a big deal but something I had to adjust a bit for.

    c. There is no question the streamer makes following the course much much simpler - night or day. There is no question in my mind it is assistance for the swimmer. Given the issues around recent swims being assisted / unassisted etc I just want to state that unequivocally. I am a noted navigationally challenged swimmer, and this is big assistance on staying on track. Period.

    d. One downside of the streamer is that is a clear indicator of forward progress. For the first 4+ hours of my swim we made good progress and the streamer was full out streaming. Further on we hit very tough current, tidal and wind conditions and forward progress slowed - at times to about 500 meters / hour (I think). At one point a did a 1 minute feed and lost 100 meters in that time. During this time, the streamer went very limp and it was a discouraging sight - clearly if this bit of cloth was hanging in the cean, so was I!

    So that's my bit about using a streamer. Frankly, if & when I get back to Tsugaru I would opt NOT to use it --- I am not a totally strict constructionist about EC Rules but it's assistance was clear to me, and I have always preferred my swims to be clean & clear of the "assisted" category. Having said that, it was interesting to see how easily I stuck by the boat (I think of Lance Oram giving me the business about whether I was swimming to Belgium or France, and if I wanted to get to France, to "stay by the f*%!@ng boat!!!".

    That worked as well as, maybe better, than a streamer!
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