Long Distance Swimming: 2016 USMS Convention 3

I attended the USAS/USMS Convention for the 17th consecutive year, joining about 300 other delegates in the annual meeting of the National organization.  I serve as Chair of the National Open Water Committee (charged with the development of and participation in open water swimming) and as a long-time member of the National Long Distance Committee (charged with overseeing long distance rules and national championship events—I have chaired the Rules & Legislation Subcommittee for many years).  This is a working convention, and serving on two committees and maintaining the necessary networks means that there isn’t much discretionary time—I always return from convention exhausted!

As always, there was lots of action across the organization.  I’ll focus on long distance and open water.

Rules:  69 long distance rules proposals passed the House of Delegates, and will go into effect on January 1, 2017.  Most proposals were minor or housekeeping, but here are several that might make a difference for you:

Age Determining Date for Open Water and Postal Swims (rule 301.5):  “In open water and postal swims, the eligibility of a swimmer shall be determined by the age of the swimmer on December 31 of the year of competition, except for 18-year-olds, who must be 18 on the day that they swim.”  This mirrors the birthdate rule used by FINA and USA-Triathlon (and for metric pool meets too).  For most of you, this will affect your age for the One Hour Swim, and may also affect your age through part or all of the open water season.

Water Conditions (new 302.2.2):  Temperature guidelines have been amended for swimmer safety in swims with very warm water.  “A swim of 5 kilometers or greater shall not begin if the water temperature exceeds 29.45° C. (85° F.).  A swim of less than 5 kilometers shall not begin if the water temperature exceeds 31° C. (87.8° F.).”  This mirrors the FINA general standard of 31° C, and the USA-Swimming exception to that rule of 29.45° C for swims 5-km or longer.  We’ll need giant climate change for this rule to affect us in Oregon, but hot weather and the resulting warm water have been a big issue across the southern states this year.

Swimwear (303.7):  For Category I open water swimwear, clasps and zippers are now excluded.  This mirrors the FINA swimwear rule, and will make it easier for event staff to identify legal swimwear at each venue.  This will rule out some suits specifically created for triathlon that also contain neoprene or coated surfaces.

Officials (308.1 & 303.12.1):  The roles and authorities of open water event director, safety director and referee have been defined, particularly the authority to postpone the start, stop a swim in progress, and cancel an event.  Swimmers might not notice changes, but this change will help event hosts.

Independent Safety Monitors (303.8):  The requirement to have a USMS-approved Independent Safety Monitor at all USMS open water swims has been removed.  Although this will have no effect on swimmers, we event directors sure do like this!  The Oregon LMSC is still responsible for assuring that approved safety plans are implemented and that adequate safety precautions are in place for existing conditions at their sanctioned open water swims, as we always have done.


One Hour Swim:  This event has been extended form January 1st through the end of February, giving you a larger window to complete your annual kick-off-the-year swim.

Open Water Guide to Operations:  Many of you don’t even know that this huge document exists, but it contains the requirements, policies, and procedures that govern all USMS-sanctioned open water swims.  The national Open Water Committee is reviewing, reformatting, and rewriting this policy book in the coming year to make it more approachable and much more user-friendly than it is now.  This will be a major task—if you miss me during the coming year, you’ll know what I’m up to.  In the end, swimmers may not notice, but event hosts sure will!

National Championship Events:  The stars continue to shine on Oregon!

2017:  Although these bids were approved at convention last year, they were confirmed this year.  In 2017, Oregon will host two Open Water National Championships, also the first time ever that the same event host (COMA) has been selected to run two National Championship swims on separate weekends:

  • The 2-mile Cable Swim National Championship at Foster Lake on Saturday, June 24, 2017;
  • The 5-km OW National Championship at Elk Lake on Sunday, July 30, 2017, as part of the Cascade Lakes Swim Series & Festival.

2018:  Oregon teams were awarded three open water National Championships at convention this year, another first-time-ever lightning strike!  Our championship week will be a crowning glory for all distance swimmers, so start planning now!  We’ll host these swims in an expanded festival format that I have tentatively named “Your Oregon Swimcation”:

  • The 11-mile Open Water National Championship at the Portland Bridge Swim in the Willamette River on Sunday, July 8, 2018
  • The 2-mile Cable Swim National Championship at Foster Lake on Thursday, July 12, 2018; and
  • The 10-km Open Water National Championship at Applegate Lake on Saturday, July 14, 2018.

We’ll be working on the details and promotion this year.

Other Business

How are you doing on your 3000 and/or 6000-yard ePostal swims this fall?  Remember that you must complete these swims on or before November 15th.  These are great fitness events and can be done in your home pool, even if it is a 25-meter pool.  For full information and entry forms, see https://www.clubassistant.com/club/meet_information.cfm?c=1287&smid=7130.

Good luck and good swimming!

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