Rottnest Channel Swim 2015

Hey folks, I'm thinking of registering for the Rottnest Channel swim next February. Before doing so I'd appreciate feedback whether the route is current friendly, sea temperature and average tidal conditions ie waves, chop etc.. ie what to expect! I did the 15k Clean Half swim in Hong Kong 3 weeks ago so would envisage keeping my fitness rather than starting a long build up but want to be sure there shouldn't be any surprises on race day as this would be my first 20k swim.

Thanks for all advice.


  • On average good conditions, but you can never tell on the day. Sea temp should be ~23-24C, depends a bit on the Leeuwin current. Nearly always a slight north or south current (swimming west) but there are bouys with GPS coords to keep the boat skipper on track. In summer, generally have an easterly offshore breeze to start with and a south-westerly sea breeze that comes in from late morning to mid afternoon. The hotter the day, the later the seabreeze. 1st wave at 5:45am, others every 15 mins. All solos away by 6:15am. Fast swimmers ~4:45hrs. Nearly always some small stingers (jellyfish).

    Will be attempting my first solo this coming Feb 2015.

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    The hardest thing about Rottnest is finding a boat + skipper, which must be entered at time of registration.

    Last year there were ~300 soloists, ~150 duos, ~450 teams meaning there were roughly ~900 support boats involved (not including race officials etcetera). My impression is that everyone who owns an appropriate vessel is bombarded by requests.

    About ten years ago the weather for the swim was pretty bad (squalls, turbulent water) and I think in todays world they'd cancel it, but normally you the worst you'd run into is chop or some swells.

    The jellyfish problem seems to depend on luck and your personal re-action to being stung - for me last year they served more as a bit of a wakeup than anything else, but I have seen folk have horrible reactions to being stung by allegedly the same species.

    Water temp can get down to ~20C I think, but the event is swum during the height of summer so the combined air+water temp is rarely going to cause a risk of hypothermia to anyone who isn't a 0% body fat pool only swimmer.

    I swam it in 2013 and am hoping to give it another go in 2015, highly recommended event. - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • Thanks all the info, especially about the boat, better get onto it!
  • Yep, you need boat details to enter a registration. You can, however, change the boat/skipper details later on.

    i.e. you just need someone with a boat to agree to let you register their details, BUT, you can still search for your "real" boat if you are only using the 1st boat to be able to register. Be careful though, you may end up not swimming if you don't have a boat to escort you!

    I have friends in the boat building business who have agreed to supply a boat/skipper but the boat I am registering with may not be the one I end up using, depending on boat sales. I am guaranteed to have one though.

  • helengheleng Hertfordshire, EnglandMember
    Richard, I did Rottnest this year - it took a while to track down a skipper and boat, eventually I found one by trawling through the Rotto website forum and found a skipper's number from a previous year. I have already given that skipper's details to 2 swimmers who are hoping to swim in 2015 - apparently he has put his price up considerably!
    The skipper was supposed to find me a kayaker, but I ended up without so I used a tow-float (aka 'butt-buoy') for the skipper to find me at the start, and to be honest I was perfectly happy without a kayaker (and saved a few bucks). Your skipper is likely to have a preference to go with or without a kayaker.

    At the start, it was quite competitive (not something I am used to) so I was out of my comfort zone - after swimming into a couple of elbows and feet I decided to drop back and find a bit more space. When you look at the number of swimmers, kayakers and boats it is amazing how they manage to find each other so quickly at the start - I wasted time looking around for my boat not realizing the skipper had spotted me long before and was waiting for the crowd to disperse before joining me. After the start everything spreads out pretty quickly and I didn't really have any other swimmers nearby for the rest of the swim and my escort boat had plenty of room to maneuver.

    The swim was really enjoyable - hydration and sunscreen are crucial. The sea was beautifully clear, although saying that, I didn't manage to see the Jellies to avoid them :-( I think I was one of the unfortunate ones who got stung relentlessly most of the way across! It was a bit choppy at the start but the chop soon became swell - generally it was quite easy swimming.

    The start and end buoys are easily identifiable and easy to follow when the escort boat isn't with you, but I didn't see the buoys mid-swim (I guess they were concealed by the swell or other boats) so I didn't know where I was until the end.

    One final point - I had a briefing with my skipper a few days before the swim and he brought up a conversation which I was not prepared for ...did I want to be told if there was a shark in the vicinity? After some consideration, my response was 'only if the skipper or race officials decided there was a need to abort'. One 5ft hammerhead shark was spotted by the helicopter during the event, but wasn't a threat to swimmers.

    Anyway, apologies for the essay, but hopefully it gives you a bit of an insight! I really enjoyed the experience, I hope you do too!!

    I am hoping to publish a video for my Rotto swim on YouTube soon (only a few months late!), I'll post the link here when it's available.
  • Helen and everyone, many thanks for your advice, all practical and much appreciated. I've been offered a place on a 4 man relay however consider it to far/expensive to go for a 5k swim. For the solo, realistically I've left it too late to arrange a skipper in time. I was training for the 15k Clean Half in Hong Kong and wasn't looking past that, so with the enthusiasm of that swim I looked for the next one, but with registration starting in a few days it's out of reach. No problem, I'll prepare well in advance for next year. Meanwhile I'm back on the market for Jan/Feb swims!
  • I was going to mention this but it's already sold out! :(

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    Well I am registered for 2015, solo #176. - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • edited November 2014
    Am registered as a first time solo-ist. Number 161. Excited/petrified! Early days of training and trying to nurse my already broken rotator cuff as much as possible
  • Also first time soloist. #90. Yikes, it's real now! :)

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    Any forum members going to the out-of-state briefing this Friday? I think I'll be sporting my bright blue Boston Light long sleeve T shirt for easy recognition :) - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member
    Will be there crewing for Tasmania's most accomplished and stylish lady OW swimmer...
  • Unfortunately have had to pull out of doing a solo. :( Had been struggling with shoulder problems for a few months. Last month or so really lost some speed by "being careful" and swimming very gently. Had seen a Sports Med Doc and had figured out a 3 jab cortisone regime to get me there. Last one was supposed to be yesterday, but I had already become a DNS by then. Jan 18 (wife's birthday) I apparently woke her at 5:30AM by having a seizure (1st one). Long story short neuro not that keen on me swimming, neither was the wife. I wasn't worried, but in hindsight realize it was a bit selfish putting it on my support crew to drag me to safety if needed. Anyway, this on top of shoulders and lack of speed meant a withdrawal. Also not allowed to drive for 6 months. If I'm OK by then (i.e. don't have another seizure) I can drive again. So I reckon if I can drive then I can solo swim as well! Have been toying with the idea of one of those bouy thingys. At least it would be easier to find the body. :)

    Good luck dc_in_sf, and any others doing the swim. I'll be going to watch the start, jumping on a friends launch, watching the finish, and staying overnight on board.


  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member
    edited February 2015 is Channel Ten's app that allows you to get coverage of the swim.....from when it starts of course

    direct link:
  • And if you know someone's (or team's) race number then you can follow their progress here:

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited February 2015
    If my time zone conversion is right, I think the first wave (top seeded soloists) sets off at 1:45pm Pacific / 4:45pm Eastern / 9:45pm GMT.

    For fans of Grace @gvanderbyl, one of 7 Americans in the race apparently, her SPOT tracker is here:
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited February 2015
    Anybody watching this?

    Good coverage from Shelley & the other guy.

    Kane Radford just won.... waiting to see Paul Newsome & Grace.
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    Gracie first woman! And with a traditional suit!

    So awesome.
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    Beautiful finish Gracie rocks!

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • ssthomasssthomas DenverCharter Mem​ber
    She's so incredible!
  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member
    Wow! Impressive finish, I love it!

    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    Sadly a DNF for me. Threw up at 11km and at 12km realized I was just not going to push through. Some challenging conditions for the slow pokes, though in retrospect I think I did not get enough long sets in the past couple of months.
    AnthonyMcCarley - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member
    We got our swimmer to 14km in very challenging conditions. she had to come out at 1435 not making the cutoff at 15km but did fantastically in toughing out all the way without complaint or even sickness. You need to be fast enough to make most of conditions before the sea breeze gets up. First time have heard the call "pan pan panshark sighting". Kind of wakes one up.....
  • gregorywannabegregorywannabe Senior Member
    edited February 2015
    Sorry about your DNF dc_in_sf. I was a DNS, and maybe a little bit happy when I saw the conditions. We boated over to rotto on a friend's launch, and later on went back out on a smaller craft looking for a solo from our club. Found her around the 16k mark. Based on "good" conditions we all were estimating ~7 to 7.5 hrs, but in those conditions she came in just over 9 hrs after toughing it out. I notice it's been a nice easterly offshore breeze all day today, that would have helped push everyone over.
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    Finish of the top two women, @gvanderbyl and Jamie Bowler:

    Does anyone know: How much do navigational lines figure into this swim? e.g., among the top 50 finishers, how far apart (laterally) are these swimmers, say, 2 miles from the finish?
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoCharter Member
    @evmo I believe the accepted wisdom for Rottnest is that you follow the straightest line, this year they even placed buoys along that course to mark it starting at 10km to assist the pilots (previously only the northern boundary of the swim area was marked).

    That said at the elite level there may be some other kind of special sauce involved :) - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer

  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member
    Agree with dc_in_sf. We borrowed a kayak from a very experienced lady who had paddled the event many times and she reckoned that sticking to the southern side was the way to go and the wind, inevitably, would move to the SW as the sea-breeze got up and push us north of the northern buoys.

    The organisers had buoys along the rhumb line, ie the straight line across, so this was recommended it would seem.

    Looking over some Met Office data, its fairly usual for the wind to be SE ish at the start and this helps the swimmers to some extent. At the briefing the slower swimmers were warned of difficult weather in the latter part of the race. this turned out to be true. The wind moved to SSW and this augmented the swell and sea state that the slower swimmers encountered. The fasties would have been well clear of the middle of the course and approaching some shelter from Rottnest Island. When the wind changed we were blown from the centre of the "path" over and slightly beyond the northern buoys. One other swimmer reported having made around 200m in one 30min stint. I don't think the tide contributes much, our skipper reckoned there was a little flow N to S but the wind and wave-train direction were the major factor. The changing wind (ie SSE to SSW etc) is fairly standard, what seems to have been different this year was the intensity and the earlier change. A large number of relay team[img][/img]s (34 I think) were DNF which indicates it was a very tough day in the office for many. This picture is 8.5 hours into the swim when my swimmer was pulled by the Officials when we failed to meet the cutoff
  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member
    Niek, it looks quite spectacular, but it all seemed quite low key at the time. They did issue their PAN call to inform Race Control they were taking in water but the cause of this isnt clear. At this point the weather wasnt particularly bad and the incident only happened ~4km into the 20km swim when things were quite benign. Clearly, once the water got in and continued to do so, there wasnt any way to get rid of it and before long we heard the Mayday. The rescue team were on hand quickly, as indeed they were throughout the race and the incident was handled with a lot less excitement than the press might suggest.
  • GruntorGruntor MelbourneMember
    I completed the Rottnest Channel Swim this year and feel very proud of myself for making it. This was only my second marathon swim ever.

    It was a very tough day out there for me. And many other swimmers said the same thing. I am told my many that conditions this year were some of the toughest in a few years. Conditions were difficult due to a strong south westerly wind that came up later on the in morning. This is normal for Perth, but if you happened to finish the race quickly, then I am guessing you would have missed a lot of this.

    I found the beginning of the race challenging, even when it should have been favourable conditions. The problem is that there are so many boats, and it was quite choppy. There was a lot of diesel to deal with and I swallowed lots of sea water.

    After a couple hours the race spread out and conditions were much improved. After 2.5 hours, I was on track to make my target time of 7:30. However, little did I know that this was really just a warmup.

    Our route was to try and head south the whole way and try not to get blown too far north. this was a constant effort the whole way. if my kayaker or boat left me briefly, when they picked me up again, we would have to correct course a lot. And this was with me consciously trying to go south to balance the sweep north.

    I don't know if it was all the water movement, swallowing sea water or feeds, but I had my first small vomit about 4 hours. I have never had this problem before. Too many factors to pin point exactly what the problem was.

    At this time, lots of the teams were coming through. My team and I had several unpleasant shouting matches with some teams. Some boats would pull up right in front of me, and then team swimmers would yell at me to get out of the way. Well, our team of course told them where they could go very quickly. This was the most disappointing aspect of the race. Lots of wankers driving boats and some poor sportmanship from some of the teams. I am not saying soloists are special, but it seems like a team might give soloists a little leeway and try work around them vs telling me to f*** off and get out of their way.

    The water is very clear. While this is great and you can clearly see all the weed and sea grass, one downside is that you can see how slow your progress is. I thought I was going slow due to lack of fitness and swimming ability, all the sea grass and weed was blowing the wrong direction.

    My heart broke momentarily when I thought we were about 1500 meters from the finish. I saw my boat peel off (ie when the race rules said they were to leave the swimmer on the home stretch) and I was thrilled that I would soon be finishing. At this stage I was feeling good mentally, and giving it all I could. I was pretty pleased with how my stroke was holding together, given my longest swim previously was a 4 hour swim. I soon realised that I was actually more like 5k away and swimming into a progressively stronger swell and wind. It reminded me of a time in university when i was doing final edits on a big term paper and I accidentally deleted the whole thing. You can cry or just get on with it. I think I did both at this stage of the swim.

    This was all pretty good mental training for me. My crew said I was taking forever to make a single kilometer, but so was everyone else apparently. In the end, I made it in just over 9 hours. This was about 2 hours longer than I hoped for and had mentally prepared for, but who knows with these sorts of things.

    My team was on the beach waiting for me so it was great to finish to big hugs rather than running up to the finish line by yourself. I thought my team would be busy trying to moor the boat and make it to the pub, but this is probably more a reflection of how long it took me to swim the last k.

    This is a pretty cool event. I got a cracked lip from the conditions and some sunburns in new places for me, but overall I was pretty unscathed.

    If you told me that all marathon swims are this tough, then I would consider taking up croquet instead. But that was my mentality in the pub afterwards. After a couple days thinking about it, I definitely got my money's worth in this swim. And some very good friends, new friends and my wife got to share my swim with me, experience a huge and amazing event, and they got to help me make it across. They are very proud of me and had a great day being a part of it.

    While swimming the race, I was thinking about what I would do differently if I attempted this again. Aside from being a better swimmer, there isn't too much to change. My swim plan worked - miracle. And I have a huge confidence boost knowing I can keep going on, and on. To go from a longest swim of 4 hours to over 9 probably isn't the recommended progression in one hit, but it does show me what is possible. I was really really happy to just be there and doing so well - the whole race. I was always positive and massively appreciative of my team looking after me.

    Dream big!

  • JimBoucherJimBoucher Senior Member
    Great account Gruntor and many congrats on making it. Another skipper, with many crossings to his name, deemed the conditions CR&P and the worst he'd contested. A great achievement to finish the swim, however long it took.

    You reminded me, however, of the appalling attitude of some on other boats. There were several bouts of slagging off going on over the R/T which really is appalling. I also saw some of the lack of manners, even lack of basic control and seamanship on the water too. It was my first time at the event, but I can't help thinking it was all a bit too-crowded and perhaps even over-crowded and even perhaps dangerous at times. Our little 5m sport boat had a guard rail bent by a poorly-controlled cruiser some twice the size and I recall sitting there afterwards realising I could have lost an arm or finger with the way metal hit metal only a few feet from me.

    Like many things in life, I knew before the event what I know now, it would have been a lot better experience!

    Once again, great swim and you should be justifiably very proud of it!
  • gregorywannabegregorywannabe Senior Member
    edited February 2015
    Well done Gruntor in finishing in such tough conditions, and thanks for such a good swim report. Really interesting to hear some of your thought processes while swimming. And that really sucks about the attitude of some swimmers and/or their support craft. I hope your crew took some swim numbers and reported them to the referee/s.

    Lack of respect for solos was also apparent at the finish line. We were there for finishing times from ~7:30 to 9+ hours so this may not have been what was happening the rest of the time. The commentator/s were essentially ignoring solos and only mentioning "interesting" teams or duos, and interviewing a few of them, e.g. "Wow, what a fantastic effort for your team of 4, swimming all that way in those conditions, amazing", meanwhile ignoring a solo a few seconds before the team and another a few seconds after. Many of us in the crowd were getting a bit upset about this and started making sure we applauded each solo as they came in. Fortunately Shelley Taylor-Smith then joined the commentators at the finish line, and she made a point of pointing out and recognising each solo, and interviewed a few as well.

    I know it costs money (a lot) to put on this event but I get the impression that solos (which is what the swim was all about when it started many years ago) are less and less a priority. The number of entrants is limited by the number of boats that are allowed into the bay at Rottnest. 1 solo = 1 boat = 1 $250 entry fee, 1 team = 1 boat = 4x$250 entry fee. You do the maths.

    JimB, I skippered for my wife in a duo a few years ago, and yes, there were a minority of boaties that were quite arrogant. There were also a larger number that just had no idea of how to handle a boat in windy, choppy conditions, when you are only progressing at the speed of the swimmer. It can actually be quite difficult. The year I skippered was a strong easterly and I spent half the time in neutral, with the kayaker paddling backwards at times.

    I've also been in a team of 4 in conditions similar wind-wise as this year, but not as strong, where our paddler was literally putting themselves between us swimmers and other boats that were about to drift across us, and pushing them away!

    Having said all this I'm still keen to see if I can get my shoulders sorted to try again next year after a DNS this year. Next year though is going to be a ballot (for the first time) for solos as well. Glad I went and watched the start this year as next year any solos that miss out on the "big day" will be pushed over into another day a few weeks later in March. No big event and self-timed, I believe.

    Once again, congratulations Gruntor on a great swim.

  • P.S. Having read my post again, it sounds a bit like I'm a bit elitist solo vs team. I'm not, it's great that teams and duos take part in such a large and amazing swim event. I was just disappointed in some of the treatment of some of the solo finishers.

  • gregorywannabegregorywannabe Senior Member
    edited March 2015
    Solo double crossing of Rottnest Channel last weekend:

    A swimmer I know organised this swim date (a few weeks after the official Rottnest Channel Swim). Hopefully he made his double as well (after a single solo during the official swim). Some others also swam singles and doubles on the day but I have no details as yet.

    Well done to Lynnette on raising $40,000 for kids SIDS research as well!

  • gregorywannabegregorywannabe Senior Member
    edited March 2015
    A bit of a taste of of the Rottnest Channel Swim 2015. White caps are solo swimmers.

  • gregorywannabegregorywannabe Senior Member
    edited March 2015
    I was wondering if anyone would attempt this at some stage. Circumnavigation swim of Rottnest Island.

    This would be a minimum of ~26km (cutting directly across bays) up to 29km+ (if following the shoreline more closely). I've fished around Rotto and it can get quite hairy out at West End with large waves/swell. I've seen dolphins surfing them, as well as "those umentionables" feeding on schools of fish. There are numerous reefs to navigate around as well.

    I'm guessing a start somewhere near Natural Jetty in the am heading along the southern side of the island with an offshore breeze and then around onto the northern side in the pm and so sheltered from the SW seabreeze, or Freo Doctor as it's called locally.

    No dates seem to be mentioned yet. (EDIT - It's happening today March 13th)


    P.S. EDIT - info/pictures here:
  • HelbeHelbe Senior Member
    Wow! So many boats!
    A bit of a taste of of the Rottnest Channel Swim 2015. White caps are solo swimmers.


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