Swim Safety – READ THIS

For those who don’t access Facebook, this is a really important article from Ned Denison.  Please read it.

Time to tell the disturbing stories of the last two Cork swims. There are too many safety issues to summarize – so read to take them all in. The purpose of this story is to EDUCATE the openwater swimming community and IMPROVE going forward:

Sherkin Island

As with every year and every West Cork openwater swim – the last swimmers arrived late. Perhaps they failed to allow enough time; a few tractors on the road or they failed to count on 20 minutes needed to park, walk to registration, change, drop a bag and walk to the ferries.

The ferries were chartered for specific times so the first swimmers hurried on.

Safety Impact 1: No real safety briefing possible (an abbreviated version for some swimmers)

The time between the first ferry and mass start was at least 20 minutes – thankfully the early morning bitter cold had passed. Some swimmers still haven’t figured out to stay warm before getting wet.

Safety Impact 2: A swimmer cold before the start is more likely to have difficulties in the swim.

The mass start was ok. Because times were not being offered the swimmers safely shuffled forward and started with the fewest possible collisions. The slipway is pretty narrow and a record 300+ swimmers – so the mass start will always involve a difference of at least 1 minute for the first and last swimmer getting wet. There were sufficient ribs/crews and a line of kayaks to keep the swimmers all on one “path” (the best ever in the event’s history > THANKS ALL).

The water was a tiny bit rough but very swimmable. Again, at least 10 swimmers were unable to complete the course even close to the maximum time.

Safety Impact 3: Not able to finish in the maximum time has so many possible safety implications – we’ve added some since the last group message.

The swimmers get cold and tired, the spread of swimmers is too long, injuries possible in trying to pull swimmers, volunteers want to get home and IT DELAYS THE FINAL CHECK OUT PROCESS. It was at least 30 minutes after the maximum time before the last swimmer was checked out. So – more time passes before an alarm can be raised.

The overall tally matched registration – but 3 swimmers numbers were noted as “??” No numbered bags were left to be taken and the organizers relaxed considerably. Because of the late finishes the swimmers were now spread from the showers to cars to pub to 50km down the road in their cars going home. The three missing names were yelled out at the pub and two quickly identified. The last was phoned and phoned and phoned.

Eventually the emergency contact was called (his wife).

Hopefully this last line hit you like a slap across the face.

Yes – “any chance you heard from your husband who was unaccounted for after the swim? But don’t worry one person came out and we didn’t get their number – so pretty sure he is ok somewhere.”

Now is probably not the time to mention that we are always looking for swim organizers…a lot of work and some really horrible tasks.

An hour had passed since the maximum time for the swim passed. The ribs, crews and kayaker were all in (accounted for – yes you need to account for them as well), the RNLI was not called > nobody is searching the water for the missing swimmer.

Then it became known that one swimmer, running late, skipped registration, jumped on the last ferry and swam.

Turn your face for a slap to the other side.

So, the overall count might just be short by 1 – unless of course several folks were running late?

Safety Impact 4: Swimming without registering is stupid, theft, inconsiderate and puts others at risk.

Absolute best practice (as seen in Lee and Sandycove Island Challenge [and some other swims]) is that swimmers are checked thru a gate into the water and back out again. No problem – get another 6 volunteers, hire barriers and try to keep back families at the finish. Perhaps get timing chips and raise the fee by 15 Euro and of course do timed waves and lengthen the time of the entire event and keep swimmers lined up getting cold longer (aaaggghh). And we have to have the swim late in the year when harbour traffic is at a minimum. Perhaps we then fight with swimmers to force them to wear the event cap and lay on two more volunteers to deal with lost caps before the start because once on the Island we can’t imagine successfully telling a swimmer without their cap that they can’t swim.

Still not to late to volunteer to organize an event….

Thankfully the missing swimmer (the one we knew was missing) called in (and spoke to his worried wife). He chose not to finish the swim and got out into a friend’s rib. He was dropped at stairs (correctly the rib didn’t try to come to the finish slipway). He walked to finish but failed to tell the “check-out crew”. He was mortified and apologized.

The person who failed to check in had never paid/registered. They planned to pay/register on the day but were running late and knew another swimmer who had paid and wasn’t coming. Their initial reaction was that it was funny. We are hoping for a change of attitude and considering options from public outing of the name to selective to wide-scale banning. Something MUST happen – it doesn’t end as a joke.

Now – we examine the timing and negative possibilities. If the organizer had called the RNLI 90 minutes after the end of the swim to report a missing swimmer – who died of hypothermia after hanging on to the big green navigational buoy for 2 hours. Or, if a body with number 535 (made up) on their wrist washed up in the morning.

We are trying to run safe events. We need more HELP and for sure we need fewer swimmer avoidable mistakes.

Swimmer organizers Ned Denison and Bernard Lynch have had the experience of FORMALLY DECLARING a missing swimmer. The organizer can’t breathe, the world collapses and you scare EVERYONE despite trying to be matter of fact. The RNLI are called, all swimmers look, crews search the waters/shores and land-based folks look for the missing swimmers. Thankfully the swimmers were ok in these past situations.

Sandycove Island Challenge

So on to the Sandycove Island Challenge the next day. Funneled swimmers to start so best practice checking into the water. The conditions around the back of the island flared up before the swim – so an inside the island course was laid out. A problem however.

Three wetsuit swimmers ran into difficulty doing the first leg to the island. They needed to get into a rib. This took a rib out of the safety system and lowered the safety of all other swimmers. One was sea sick (it can happen – but possibly caused by too little experience in the sea?) and in the opinion of the organizers the other two swimmers would not have been able to complete the entire island swim in even flat calm conditions. Unfortunately, we didn’t record the two names. PLEASE – you will know who you are. PLEASE either get much more experienced or do not enter another similar event – you are putting yourself in danger and lower the increasing the risk for others.

Safety Impact 5: Not being able to swim the advertised conditions is worse than exceeding the maximum allowed time.

In a normal year these two swimmers would have needed a rescue from the water from the back of the island. In almost all respects wetsuits improve safety. The one negative is that the buoyancy/warmth can deceive a swimmer into thinking that a 2k swim is a dawdle.

In the last safety note I encouraged you all to keep a current swim resume. We don’t think these two swimmers ever swam a mile. Interestingly for the Myrtleville > Churchbay 2k swim the organizers “invite” swimmers who must be vouched for by one of 8 named swimmers based on recent openwater swimming appearance. It is their top safety measure and rigidly enforced. Easy to understand how they arrived at that position.

Folks – please take a minute to re-read the safety impact lines. Please try NOT to contribute to one of these safety issues in the future.

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Event Safety – from Ned Denison

Ned Denison took the time to give some thought to the responsibilities of swimmers and organisers in OW events. Well worth a read.

Event Safety

This is a consistent issue as we all need organisers and swimmers to keep this as their number one objective.

I see the two most important things as:

1. Each swimmer is up to the challenge of the swim
2. The organisers have the courage to cancel the swim (minutes before the event – if they are not 100% confident about swimmer’s safety…and swimmers to accept these calls (with gratitude).

Then we have the safety plan, the number of water-based safety boats/kayaks (and quality of the crew), check-in/out process and on shore volunteers/safety crew. While important – these two above are much more important.

Let’s start with the swimmers.

The SAFEST events require recent performance at a similar distance. The upcoming Dock swim, for example, requires:

“YOU MUST HAVE COMPLETED AT LEAST 1 X 5KMM OPEN WATER SWIM THIS YEAR TO ENTER.
DO NOT use this event as your first skins swim. If you are swimming skins, you must be properly acclimatised and have been swimming for a minimum of 2 hours consecutively this season.”

Your 5KM swim last year in Greece in 25C water doesn’t prepare you for 14C in Cork. The Dock swim isn’t a swim for you to increase your personal best distance from 2KM.

This requirement is in place for the safety of every swimmer, water-based safety crew and on-shore volunteers/safety crew. EVERY aborted swim introduces DANGER. Think about a slightly panicking 15 stone swimmer grabbing the side of a kayak. Or think about how hard it is to get that same swimmer into a rib – without seriously damaging their shoulder – or the backs of the crew. We now have a boat (with a propeller) in the swim path of others. Then you have possibly the high-speed trip to the start or finish (with the swimmer) – again along/through the swim path of others. Maybe the swimmer climbs out on the rocks (cut up and possibly bashed by waves) and a boat needs to try and get close enough to extract (is a crew member jumping out to help?). In all cases, EVERY aborted swim draws safety EYES off the rest of the swimmers – and lowers the safety cover for all.

It isn’t hard – get yourself to the ocean ahead of the swim and do your 5KM. You want safe? How about in 1 meters of water (back and forth) at Inchydoney Beach.

There are other events (in rivers, along gentle beaches, point to point, with more safety craft) which will have lower qualification levels.

Or, at a different time, get your own safety rib and crew and do that same swim as your personal best. They can focus 100% on your safety.

In endless safety briefings I also talk about your condition on the day: just out of the hospital, worst chest infection, etc. The swimmer needs to do a sane self assessment before registering and before getting wet.

Then the courage of swim organisers to cancel – even at the last minute. Yes, you drove 3 hours for the swim and planned your entire weekend around the event. Rest assured that every organiser REALLY wants their event to happen. There are hundreds of things to drive a last minute cancellation: waves which are judged to increase the difficulty beyond acceptable safety for ALL the swimmers (yes – they were fine for you – but not for the least experienced 25% of the swimmers), any hint of fog, 50 meters of deep brown sea foam across the course, 2 of the 4 ribs with mechanical difficulties, 3 folks buzzing about on jet skis who will not yield, heavy rain/hail which reduces visibility, 10 swimmers show up drunk and will not accept to give the swim a miss, the water temperature dropped to 11C in the last day, oil slick, very bad farm run off, 2 big basking sharks, lion’s mane/Portuguese man of war, thousands of stinging compasses, large fishing net adrift across the course, etc.

Kudos to the Myrtleville organisers who delayed the Church Bay swim by a few days – after they warned in advance of possible severe weather. They took some abuse from a few swimmers (which is just nonsense).

Open water swimming is getting more and more popular. We have more than 150 marathon swimmers (10KM or greater epic swim) in County Cork. The events are getting more popular and larger. In order to participate SAFELY in these events, you need to have a current open water swimming resume which proves that you are up to the challenge.

You can make and increase the quality of your resume – you need to if you want to enter longer events.

Rescheduled swim tonight

All entries from Tuesday’s swim still stand.  Thanks to those who have advised they can’t make the rescheduled event tonight.  We hope to see you next year!

All entrants will receive an email this morning with the participant information.  It is posted here also for convenience – just click the link.

Rescheduled RNLI Myrtleville to Church Bay Swim 2018 – Participant Information

Green for Go – Registration from 18.00 this evening, Thursday, July 5th.

RNLI Myrtleville-Church Bay entry limit

A maximum of 300 entries are going to be accepted for the swim on July 3rd. 

We are currently heading past 200 (lots of people were busy at the weekend 🙂 ) so while there’s still space, it will disappear as the weather improves.  If you’re planning to swim – enter early.

Entries online via Active only.  Enter here.

We can’t promise there will be dolphins that evening, but they’re available as training partners in Myrtleville at the moment – as caught by Siobhan Russell yesterday.

The Myrtleville Showers barbershop quartet, led by Antoinette “Madonna” Wilson will also be performing on the evening.  Not to be missed.

Get entered if you don’t want to miss out.

Courtmacsherry Lifeboat Swim, July 29th

From Ray “The Lovely” McArdle (don’t ask – he insists 🙂 )

The 7th Annual Courtmacsherry Lifeboat Swim takes place at Blind Strand, near the picturesque fishing village of Courtmacsherry at noon on Saturday, July 29th. Courtmacsherry is a 45 minute drive from the Bandon Road roundabout.  The swim will be well sign posted from the village.  Please leave plenty of time for parking and registration. The safety briefing will take place at 11.15am.

The swim course starts on the beach at Blind Strand and proceeds anti-clockwise around 2 markers. 

Participants can choose between 1 lap (1.5K) or 2 laps(3K). Swimmers who elect to do 2 laps will run/walk a short distance on the beach prior to starting lap 2. 

The Courtmacsherry volunteers will provide soup and sandwiches for all participants and volunteers.  This year I’m delighted that IT@Cork Skillnet will once again be our main sponsor, providing the first 150 swimmers registered with a generous goody bag.  Really nice gifts inside each one.

Registration this year is again via Active. Click here to enter.

Registration closes on Thursday, July 27th.  Entry fee is €15 online.  If the event maximum of 150 swimmers is not met, I will accept some entries on the day.  On the day fee will be €25 and all proceeds go to the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat.  Swim Ireland membership is not mandatory for this swim. 

If you know of anyone who would like to volunteer to kayak, please have them contact me directly.

Any further updates will be posted on the event web page and emailed to those registered.

I look forward to seeing you for a fun swim on July 29th.

Ray “The Lovely” McArdle (I’m telling ya – he insists).