An elite swimmer starting with no cap? We trust there's a solid reason for this. No-cappers should cop the DQ. It's a safety thing.
Tickle up at Bondi
When Bronte awgies announced on Sat'dee that all swimmers were encouraged to wear wetties, mentioning the water temp -- c. 16C, while an beach sign at Bronte earlier on Saturday cited 13.7C, which, according to one present at the preso at Bronte post-swim, was virtually what was announced then: 13.6C -- a character on Twitter, @Vinci_Vega, commented, "Oh man that's gonna tickle tomorrow :)". Vinci was right.
Awgies also announced that wettists would be eligible for all prizes and places. This was, apparently, a move to encourage more punters to wear rubber, for their own protection. Indeed, there was so much rubber in the break at Bondi -- the swim started and finished at Bondi -- the air at the start was overwhelming in the aroma of mothballed neoprene.
Awgies were right to encourage wetties. It was a safety call, responding to their duty of care to make the event as safe as they can. Awgies also have a duty of care to their own volunteers, such as water safety crew. They have to make the event as safe as they can for them, too. That was also prominent in their deliberations, we know. We take issue with the second part of their call, however: whilst they were right to encourage wetties, given the temperature, we don't agree that they should have handed the race virtually in toto to wettists, as this decision did.
Prior to this year's swim, Bronte awgies had already announced a far more sensible wetsuit policy than they'd followed in previous years. Earlier, the policy was that one prize in every age group was reserved for the fastest wettist, thus if you came last in your age group but were the only wettist, you got a prize, which otherwise would have gone to 3rd place. This year, they modified that so that wettie wearers would get their own prizes, 1-2-3, M/F, whilst newd swimmers were open company. They are the vast majority, after all. This was an eminently reasonable stance to adopt. At normal water temps, wettists are few and far between in NSW swims. There simply aren't enough of them to justify such special treatment. The decision on Saturday, however, made the policy even more extreme than it had been before: that wetsuits were eligible for all prizes and places, willy nilly.
We have no issue with punters wearing wetties or with Bronte awgies encouraging wetties in water temps as we had this day. Some people feel the cold more than others and need protection. But wettists and newds should compete in separate divisions. Coaches have told us -- "on dit" -- that wetties confer up to 20 per cent advantage over newd swimmers, confounded by factors such as individual flotation. It's just not fair to say to a minority of the field, "Here you go son; here's a 20 per cent advantage. Enjoy the bias!"
Awgies also, perhaps, don't appreciate that the vast majority of swimmers are not there to win the race or their age group. They are a realistic bunch. They are there to compete against their own performances, their cobbers, and maybe, through some idiosyncratic formula, to measure their progress against the winner (remember our Dezzies, that we used to record in results: the ratio of the individual's time to the winner?). Most punters are there to appreciate the moment, the place, and the ocean. Handing the event to wettists as Bronte did simply places the majority of ocean swimmers at a disadvantage from the start. Bronte awgies could have achieved their aims simply by warning of the cold and strongly encouraging wetties. They didn't have to go that gratuitious one step further.
In any case, many mugs simply don't have wetties hanging in the wardrobe, ready to be pulled out for one day every year or few.
Chris Ivin (@1worldimages) was at Bondi, photographed the first two waves, then swam in the third wave...
We were at Bondi, too...
North Curl Curl was cold, too...
... Click here