Newbie Race Director looking for advice, tips, etc from other RDs and swimmers

SalishSeaSalishSea Nanaimo, BC CanadaMember
edited September 2013 in Resources
I am new to putting on a swimming events and my first one will be a 2km, 5km and 10km ocean swims in Nanaimo BC, Canada. The 2km will be and out and back in the harbour, the 5km around a small island and the 10km around 2 islands. All distances will be with insight of the shore at all times and the 10km should have a a big push from the current at the end.

I have organized running events so I a general idea of what is needed, volunteers, sponsors, website etc.

What I am looking for is what makes a truly great open water event. Is it the route, weather, amount of support, # of boats, # of kayaks, pre/post race events, post race food, prizes etc.

What in your opinions makes a race great.

As well if there are any RDs out there with any tips or tricks I am all ears.

Thanks in advance.


  • SalishSeaSalishSea Nanaimo, BC CanadaMember
    Are you holding the races all starting at the same time (a) or start the next one after the other has finished (b)?
    I am planning on a mass start for the 5km and 10km and starting the 2km about 15 min after.
    The biggest problems will be getting enough boats and/or kayaks.
    The biggest costs are the boats and/or kayaks.
    Yes I am beginning to see that. I am working with a few local clubs (kayak and yacht clubs) to see what they can do for me.
    Will you use cut-off times and how much?
    Yes I am for the 10 km only and that would be around the 4km mark. I like the European Masters time cut off method. But I may give the people the option to switch to the 5km race at that point.
    I saw log floats on the satellite photo. I hope they will stay away on race day.
    Yes they come and go. I need to talk with the city and the harbour master about them to see if I can ensure they are not there on race day.

    I am thinking for the longer races a 1:1 swimmer/kayak ratio but could I get away with a 1:2 or 1:3 swimmer/boat ratio? As I would assume the boats would only be there for safety.

    The shorter race I would just have a kayak or boat around every 250m or so. Or would it be better to have a 1:5 ratio?
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    @SalishSea, What I am looking for is what makes a truly great open water event. Is it the route, weather, amount of support, # of boats, # of kayaks, pre/post race events, post race food, prizes etc.

    @SalishSea, I am not a RD, but I am an OW swimmer and I've done events from 2K to 10 miles. So I will solely answer your above question. Here is my priority list for "what makes a truly great open water event:"

    1) Safety (boats/kayaks)
    2) Route (and that includes the route actually being the distance it is supposed to be). I have two sub-bullets under route:
    2a) The fewer loops the better. Out and back is great. Even around an island is good. If your 10K is around two islands and not around the 5K island twice, then that's awesome. Worse is a multiple-lap course. They do a 10K here in DC which is 6 laps. Oy!
    2b) Buoys. The longer the distance btwn turns, the more intermediate buoys that are needed. If you're going to line buoys around the island and instruct swimmers to "keep all buoys on your" __LEFT or RIGHT__, then make sure you got a lot of them. I don't know, every 200m or so? 250?
    3) Pre- and post-swim events, if only so my wife and kids don't get bored for the 3+ hours I'll be swimming the 10K!
    4) Food. Nice to have, but sometimes at smaller events, us slow swimmers have little (to no) food by the time we're done!
    5) Weather. Not much you can do about the weather.

    Some things you didn't ask but I'll add: I like to get a t-shirt. If I paid the registration fee, give me a shirt. (Not all races do this.) Swag bag filled with more than just coupons for shops. Also, and I'd put this between #2 and #3: Rules listed and swimmers DQ'd if they don't follow them. Little worse than being passed by someone in your age group swimming with a pull-buoy.

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

  • SalishSeaSalishSea Nanaimo, BC CanadaMember
    @Niek I like your plan. I never thought of the figure 8. I will have to look into the currents a bit more b/c I would hate to miss time it and have the swimmers hitting a 6kt current on the return leg! It will also make the kayak/boats easier to organize. One thing we have here is no shortage of kayaks to rent so I am hoping some swimmers bring their own support person and I can supply the kayak.

    @IronMike Just one loop or figure 8 around 2 islands. Not planning on any buoys. I am planning on measuring the distance at a reasonable distance (~200m) from shore and if a swimmer can safely swim closer that is up to them. There will be a T-shirt, whats the point in racing if there is no shirt! And yes lots of food. I am working with a local First Nations band to do a traditional salmon cook for us. Fingers crossed it works out.
  • When is it? I want to do it!
  • SalishSeaSalishSea Nanaimo, BC CanadaMember
    @Leprechauturd it won't be until next August. I should have a date firmed up in a week or two and a website by the end of Oct.
  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    @SalishSea, I wish you luck w/o buoys. I only mention it because I've been to races where some of the racers have stood up and run in the shallow spots.

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

  • SalishSeaSalishSea Nanaimo, BC CanadaMember
    @IronMike, if that happens it means they would have to gone all the way to shore b/c the shallow spots are all highly visible from the start/finish. So....if some one really wants to cheat it would be easier to to be pulled by their kayak.

  • SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest
    edited October 2013
    @ The South End ...On our longer swims (5-10 miles) we require the swimmer to secure their own kayaker who will carry the feeds and look after the swimmer...and raising a paddle for help so one of the powered inflatables can come over to is always good to have a band of boats and kayaks channeling the swimmers in a heavy boat traffic area with one power craft assigned as a rover and to chase fast oncoming speed and lead kayaks should have radios along with a medic type on land power boat captain should be in charge with a spotter on land if possible if running along a coastline.


    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • SalishSeaSalishSea Nanaimo, BC CanadaMember
    edited June 2014
    So my race is coming together nicely. I have a safety plan and race rules done up. If anyone is so inclined to look them over I would love some feed back and more importantly have I missed anything!

    Thanks in advance.

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    I would add several items to the mandatory list of kayaker equipment:
    Hand Held Marine Radio (and know how to use it)
    Cell Phone
    Timing Device

    Boats should be required to have at least 2 radios. If they only have one and it goes dead, they are pretty much useless out there.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    Sent you some notes in a message.

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

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    Just curious @SalishSea what is the expected water temperature? Didn't see that when I looked on the event site (though may have missed it). - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • suziedodssuziedods Mem​ber
    Allow time to introduce swimmers to each other. We spend so much of our time w our face in the water...That's one of the cool things about 8 Bridges or the GSL swim ( 2 hours in a van is a great way to get to know someone!) You get to hang out all day ( if you're not swimming) w other swimmers. Take a moment or two at the race briefing to let the swimmers say hello, or say something. Make name tags if necessary. Allow enough time at the meal afterwards to account for the not so speedy swimmers.. don't have the awards ceremony while you still have 10 people in the water.
    In other words... invoke community, sharing and conversation or do your best to enable it as best you can. FB , texting , skype &forums only go so far in knowing people.
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