U bent hier

Michael Oram advises: Relay team swim positions

The following is a copy of correspondence on the google channel swimming discussion website. Used with permission.

The answer to how to deceide on the order of swimming in a team is either a short or a long one and debateable one that will no doubt be questioned by many. This answer is given from my point of view as a pilot with the parameters I think you should be looking at.

The short answer is --
1 - 2 - 3 - should be both strong and fast swimmers.
They need to get you away from the British coast,
Swim the most number of times,
Set the moral and the motion of the team.

Swimmer 4 - 5 - 6 need to be the steady, stable swimmers that will get in and complete their hour without being under too much pressure.
A rough idea of team speed is needed so that you can have some idea who will be landing and can bracket the swimmer who is most likely to land just in case they have to go rock climbing or swim to the shore in the dark with waves.
There is also a possibly rough / unpredictable spot if you pass to close to Cap Gris nez (within a mile) and hit the overfalls - this might need a good swimmer.

The long Answer is --
Sorting out the relay team positions is really dependant on a lot of things.
You can make your decisions on personal - mathematical - swim priority and I'm sure a lot of other points.

Personal option is dependant on --
who you want to start
who you want to finish
who is happy to swim the most number of times
Who is happy to swim in the dark
Who can swim in rough water
Plus -- Any other reason you can add to the list.

Mathematical --
This is the basis of understanding your swim and what you are taking on.

For this you need to know; or have a rough idea of the speed of each team member so that you can plan which is the best person to have where in the team and what the situation will be when you hope to be landing.

Your team time for the crossing is calculated by adding the individual team speeds/ distance's estimated for all the team members for their first swims.
Divide this figure into the distance to be covered for the crossing. (Work on about 19 nm -- 38000 yrds -- 35000 metres). This will give you the estimated number of swims per team member and can be used to work out is in the water when. You should also have a reasonable good idea who will be swimming when you reach the French shore.

The different stages of the crossing and guidelines as to where you are can be checked by using the distances for each section on the Channel breakdown. (see chat site Archives or at bottom of this e-mail)

Remember to allow for ego and conditions --
Most swimmers seem to add about 10% + to get their hourly distance covered and speed. -- Most swimmers are slower on their second and third hours in the water, (although, just to confuse things we do see some that swim better once they have completed their first hours swim).

There are a member of points required and reached in the swim that should be considered.
These are based on the conditions and tidal height on the day. The wind direction (with or against the tide) and it's speed etc.

  1. The start -- this can be in the dark or daylight -- from Shakespeare Beach or from Sanfire Hoe.
  2. Usually at an hour before High Water Dover, but it's flexible depending on the team speed and conditions.
  3. You need to be 3 nm (6000 yards or 5500 metres) out from the closest shoreline when you are in line with the Eastern Entrance to Dover so that you miss the tide that goes into the Downs and get help from the tide that goes to the East of the Goodwins (towards the shipping lane).
  4. The stronger the tide the faster your first and second swimmers should be to cover this distance.
    The tide - (is predicted to) - travels up Channel from the South West to the North East from 2/1.5 hours before high water to 4.5/5 hours after high water.
    It then turns through 180° to flow down channel from the North East to South West from 4.5 / 5 hours after high water to 2/1.5 hours before high water.

Bearing this in mind when wind and tide are in the same direction the sea is longer and the waves smoother.

  • When the wind is against the tide the sea is short and choppier.
  • When the wind is from the South east it is in the swimmers face and across the tide which can cause a confused sea.
  • When the wind is from the North West it is behind the swimmer and tends to cause a surfing sea that can assist the swimmer. A North Westerly wind is also from the land and gives calmer conditions at the start of the crossing when you are protected by the cliffs.

When the tide changes at HW plus 4.5/5 hours it will cause a change is sea conditions over a very short period of time. On a Standard relay that will be possibly be at the end part of your 6th swimmers hour and the start of your first swimmer.
The sea could get rougher or calmer depending on the wind direction and tidal height.
The same situation arises on the French coast when the tide turns on the 11th/12th hour.
If you are within spitting distance (1 to 2 nm - 2000/ 4000 yards - 1852 / 3700 metres) of Cap Gris Nez when the tide turns then a fast swimmer that can "up the pace" for 20 minutes will be a great help.
For every yard / metre gained during this period you save 10 to 20 yards once you are in Wissant bay.

There is a lot more involved in the guestimation of a Channel swim from a pilots point of view, some of it is explained in the chat site archives reference tides etc.

You could of cause just ask your pilot what he thinks; based on each swimmers information you have collected and make your minds up from his reply. That way you can then lay the blame on them if it does not compute.
Michael O