Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Dear Swimmers

Just a quick note to say "arrivederci!" for 2 weeks as I head off to Mallorca this evening to run one of our 3-day Coach Education Courses for 20 international coaches from right around the world wanting to start their journey with Swim Smooth. I'll also be coaching alongside British Olympic silver medallist Keri-anne Payne (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keri-Anne_Payne) as part of the international BEST Fest Pro Clinic series (see http://bestopenwater.com/swim-smooth-offer/ ) which is a 7 day aquatic bonanza of various open water races in pristine, clear, shark / stinger-free warm waters teeming with marine life. It should be a lot of fun and a brilliant opportunity to work with some of the very best open water swimmers in the world. Check out this short video here:

…perhaps we'll look at bringing a crew of you guys out here next year! I'll certainly be doing my homework!

Whilst I am away, the coaching team of Sally, Derek, Ross and Marie will be looking after you in the best possible fashion. All the sessions are set and have been created with a view to some good challenges to keep you ticking over whilst I am away! So despite the cooler weather, you'll be in the very best of hands.


I was on a seminar last weekend and the speaker (Craig Harper - well worth checking out) said this which got me thinking:

"Motivation is the catalyst that sparks the fire, but not the fuel that keeps the firing burning (that's habit)"

It really got me thinking as he suggested that when people ask him what motivates him to go training at 5.30am he says "nothing - I don't need motivation as it's such an integral part of my daily routine that it's as habitual as brushing my teeth in the morning!" 

It made me contemplate your own motivations as squad swimmers - yes it becomes harder to get out of bed in the colder weather, but images like Derek's above show a) how nice it is to swim in the warm water with the steam rising and b) how virtuous you feel afterwards! So next time you think about rolling over and hitting that alarm, realise that the strength of your habit is what you're trying to tap into, not the search for motivation per se as you've got that internally and have already started the fire by regular swimming over the last months and years. So maintain that habit and you'll never have to re-start the fire and go searching for motivation!


I thought you might find the following useful whilst I am away:

I'll be back on pool deck Friday 9th June - see you then!


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sally's Learn-2-Swim Beginner's sessions

Dear Swimmers

Hope you're all doing well - looks like this might be the break to beautiful weather we've been enjoying of late - still, I'm sure your gardens and the dams could do with a bit of a drink!

Sally's Learn-2-Swim Beginner's sessions (individual)

Do you have a family member or a friend that wants to learn how to swim freestyle correctly? Coach Sally offers a 5 x 45 minute beginners package for those who can't swim at all to those who have never had any formal coaching before and simply want to improve their stroke. Sally's having some excellent success with helping people during these sessions finding their love for swimming.

Please contact Sally for further details (0437996399) or view full details at https://www.sallyscaffidicoaching.com.au/testimonials

Sally's adult Beginner's class

Sally also offers a Friday 11.30am adult beginner's class as well - this small group environment is the perfect feeder group from those doing the 1-2-1 sessions and looking to eventually join the larger squad program - it's a cracking session with plenty of individual feedback - check it out at: https://www.sallyscaffidicoaching.com.au/contact 



Friday, April 28, 2017

This week I've mostly been building a new www.swimsmoothperth.com website!

Dear Swimmers

Hope you've enjoyed this week's training and the Vindaloo CSS Session this morning?

This week I've mostly been building the new www.swimsmoothperth.com website - please take a look and let me know what you think or if you have any dramas using it? 

I hope you like the fresh, clean new look, minus all the bumpf about the "new" PAYG-BLUK system as it's now nearly 2 years old and you all know how it works. I'm hoping you love the special videos I've created for it, especially the Squad Lifestyle one - can you spot yourself in it?

If you have any friends who've thought about joining the squad or attending a 1-2-1 Video Analysis & Stroke Correction session, I hope you'll point them to the site given how it's a little clearer now as to how it all works?

Have a great weekend!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Easter & ANZAC Day Closure

Dear Swimmers

Please be reminded that we won't have any formal squad sessions at Claremont Pool on Friday 14th April and Monday 17th April owing to the Easter Long Weekend.

Also both early morning Tuesday sessions on 25th April (ANZAC Day) will also be off too. Please note the 6.15pm session is open for bookings on the 25th April and all those who wish to attend should please check their app to see if they are booked in or not.

For anyone wanting to get in a couple of additional sessions this week to allow you to enjoy an extra bit of chocolate this weekend, the following sessions are currently showing as having good availability:

  • Tuesday 11th and 18th April - 5.30am, 6.30am and 6.15pm
  • Wednesday 12th April - 9.30am (I dare say too that even the 5.30am might open up entirely this week and next also, so could be a great time to bag a coveted spot in this popular session!)
  • Thursday 13th April

Please stay tuned for an informal gathering on Cottesloe Beach this Good Friday at 7am for a swim down to North Cottesloe and back in place of the squad sessions (further details to follow).



P.S I will be taking a short family holiday next week (MON-FRI) up in Kalbarri, but Coaches Sally and Ross will be holding the fort in my absence. Have a great holiday if you're also heading off anywhere yourself!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Old Hat, New Hat; Old Stroke, New Stroke; Old Skool, New School!

Dear Swimmers

I sincerely hope you enjoyed last week's "Old Skool" training week and that it provided you with a little variety, fun and a bit of a challenge of course. If you absolutely hated it, firstly, that's totally OK, secondly, don't panic, we're back to the "New School" this week!

Many of you will be pleased to see the back of this guy this week! He will return again though, possibly when you least expect it!

I thought I'd just take this quick opportunity to share with you what prompted the change to the norm and hopefully what was beneficial for you as well as highlighting how what we do "normally" week-in / week-out is significantly more effective and always still with the aim of evolving rather than just rolling with the status quo.


For the last two weeks I've had a very good friend Garrie and his partner Anna stay with me here in Perth. Garrie was the coach / president of the Rossendale Triathlon Club that I first joined as a spotty 16 year old back in 1994! Some 23 years later we are still mates and in regular contact and these days Garrie has been attending our own Swim Smooth coaching courses and utilising the same system that I've developed here in Perth with his new brood in Bolton, UK. It feels pretty cool to be helping and inspiring someone these days with his own coaching who was a major reason I got into the sport and chose to pursue coaching in the first place. Anyway, Garrie attended the Rottnest SwimRun last weekend and watched me being dragged around by über-athlete Brad Hosking! You can read Garrie's sentiments about the race above and how it brought him back to "the good old days" - it certainly felt that way to me too.

So this was the impetus for last week's torturous t-shirt, bands, kicking and individual medley sets...

Old Hat, New Hat:

Many of you rightly questioned "why would you get us wasting a week doing something which you now consider inferior just for the sake of fun?" I can certainly understand the sentiment, especially with the last 14 years of dedicated hard work we've spent trying to change the world view of what is an efficient freestyle stroke and how it should be taught - slightly hypocritical, huh? However, besides how I don't believe you can ever put a price on fun and certainly can't underestimate it's value to bring out the best in you all with some exciting new challenges, there was definitely some method in the madness!

My kid's favourite book growing up was "Old Hat, New Hat" by Stan and Jan Berenstain. If you've never read it the synopsis is very simple: a bear walks into a shop trying to find a new hat to replace his old one. He searches the entire store and tries on at least a hundred different hats, none of which are quite right. Ultimately the bear goes back to his trusty favourite with "better the devil you know than the devil you don't" obviously being the motto here. However, I also believe that cheeky little bear is enjoying himself trying the variety of some new headwear and maybe learning a thing or two along the way! Hopefully you experienced this last week to some extent?

Old Stroke, New Stroke:

Swim Smooth Coach, Rob Kwaaitaal using our radio headset in the Netherlands to better coach this swimmer to improve his stroke

Using the "Old Hat, New Hat" analogy, I've recently been experimenting during my 1-2-1 video analysis sessions using our radio headset system to control a swimmer's stroke so that within the space of 50m they can experience the change and contrast between their new corrected stroke and their old, inefficient stroke. When you've been swimming a certain way of many years it can take time to change a habit, but systematically showing someone what it feels like to go back to the old stroke is way more powerful than simply being taught or even shown the inefficiencies on a computer video analysis screen. Suddenly it clicks and the swimmer realises how their old stroke has been holding them back and how - at first use - the new stroke might feel weird or even wrong, it is in fact much more effective. I believe it shaves many, many hours off frustrating technique development work and can be hugely empowering for the swimmer. 

Of course it requires knowing what that key thing is that is holding the swimmer back and then how to improve it, but even last week when we were doing some of the funny old drills like "catch-up" the look of recognition across many of your faces when you realised, for example, how inefficient it actually is to add too much glide into your stroke was very rewarding for myself and my coaches on pool deck. Showing you how these drills have evolved and continue to evolve to make the process even more refined is what makes swim coaching so exciting for me even now 20 years into this "gig" :-)

If you're curious book in for a session yourself at http://www.swimsmoothperth.com/appointments and use the code bubblebubblebreathe in the checkout to enjoy 10% off your first consultation.

Back to the New School:

It was massively beneficial last week for myself and my team of coaches to also see how much harder it is to coach an Old Skool session without the use of the Tempo Trainers etc and as Sod's Law would have it, the pool clock happened to be broken this week too:

You might like the idea of knowing that we're working our butts off on pool deck and really earning our keep, but this was a much less efficient way of coaching. Using 5, 10, 15 second increments on the clock made the whole process of pace and cycle allocations an "exercise of best fit" as Derek Cross put it - you were either getting too much rest, not enough, or having to solve mental arithmetic challenges in your head of when the next send-off would be, rather than focusing on your actual swimming. Equally, our attention was drawn away from your swimming, technique and required amounts of motivation as we battled to control the lanes with multiple stopwatches. I truly felt like I'd stepped back into the Dark Ages and was coaching far less effectively as a result. Whilst some of you said you liked this experience (referring to the Tempo Trainers as being psychological challenging, see http://www.feelforthewater.com/2017/03/the-psychology-of-tempo-trainer.html of this is you), as with all we do, we're constantly striving to find a better way to do something and ensure you're getting the very best bang for your coaching buck down at Claremont Pool.

4 for the Road:

In case you missed any of these Old Skool sessions, here are four for you to savour and perhaps consign to the bin or for when you're looking for something just a little fun and a tad different, after all, that is what last week was all really about: fun.



Old Skool Threshold Session

Old Skool Red Mist Session

Old Skool Technique / Endurance Session

Old Skool Technique Session

Monday, April 3, 2017

Inspired by the Rottnest SwimRun event, this week we go "Old Skool"!

This week we'll be winding back the clocks and getting a little "Old Skool" with our squad sessions by putting the Tempo Trainers to bed for a little variety...

Dear Swimmers

In today's blog update you'll be getting two updates in one - whoop! This week's training and this last weekend's inaugural Rottnest SwimRun event - let's start off with this week.

Going Old Skool

As promised over the last couple of weeks, this week we'll be going a little "old skool" in all the squad sessions and replacing some of our current drills with some classics, asking you to bring in a t-shirt for some resistance training, mixing in a few short sections of different strokes (all optional of course!), spicing things up with a little bit of speed work, and giving the Tempo Trainers a little rest too! Why you ask? Primarily for a little fun and variety now that the two major Rottnest swims are over and to add in a light-hearted week for those of you doing the Busselton 70.3 event where I am sure your biking and running is pinging along quite heavily at the moment (cue the tired, grumpy face).

As the 7am and 9.30am crew found this morning, winding back the clock with some classic drills can provide quite a bit of insight into how to improve your efficiency, and equally to see exactly how and why certain drills have developed over the years and some have been confined to the annals of history. Here was this morning's session in case you missed it:

Whilst we speak about how drills such as "Catch Up" (essentially over-gliding) can be detrimental for your swimming, the swimmers this morning experienced this first-hand and realised how much increased effort was required to shift themselves through the imprinted dead-spot at the front of the stroke. This section of the session is highlighted above in RED. Equally then, demonstrating the similarity of drills like 6/1/6 and Unco (highlighted in GREEN above) to Catch Up and Reverse Catch Up, allowed the swimmers to see how these drills had evolved over time to give a much better chance to acquire beneficial skills that wouldn't be holding them back. Sounds simple? It was, and sometimes even just doing something purposefully wrong can be very revealing when you know how and why to do it right.

So all the squad sessions this week will have a little bit of an "Old Skool" feel about them. I've now been swim coaching myself for 20 years (eeek!) so please come and try some of these exercises for a little fun and variety. Don't forget to bring a t-shirt and equally there will be a prize at the end of the week for the most retro looking outfit(s)!

Rottnest SwimRun:

As you may recall, last June I travelled over to the Scilly Isles off the southwest coast of England to participate in the inaugural British ÖtillÖ SwimRun event - an event which saw me covering 42km with a partner comprised of 10km of ocean swimming in 13ºC and 32km of very rugged off-road trail running. It's a crazy event but one which is gaining a lot of international traction. You can read more about that race here:

…fast forward to 2017 and low and behold but several of the Tuesday / Friday 6.30am squad swimmers had decided and planned for over 12 months to bring the same race concept over here to Western Australia on the beautiful Rottnest Island.

Competitors had to complete the following course:

Which comprised 28.3km of mostly beach / rock running and 4.4km of ocean swimming, all with a partner of your choosing:

Wearing a range of garbs like this (anything goes so long as you run and swim in your running shoes and carry everything with you all day):

…and looking about this silly:

Ironically the guy who got me into triathlon some 22 years ago (Garrie Prosser, left) was visiting us on holiday for the event - the perfect mentor to have alongside!

For my sins, I had opted to go with veritable powerhouse / Terminator, Brad Hosking as my partner who has competed at no less than 3 Hawaii Ironman World Championship events finishing way up the roster. We've both recently found a "happy place" in terms of recognising that family and work commitments may perhaps have taken the edge off our competitive yearnings, however, that was until the gun went off and we found ourselves entering the first swim in 6th position out of 48 duos and then popping up in 2nd position after the first swim! The game was on and the fire in the belly was back for both of us almost as quickly as we'd agreed that we'd just be taking a weekend "stroll" around the island!

Off to a steady start in 6th position - the competitive fire was still burning brightly just 20 minutes after this race-start shot!

We decided to keep a "lid on it" and just to pace things out. Having Brad's endurance sport experience literally tethered to me was perfect and prevented the temptation to cook things too early on:

By the time we got halfway around the island (West End) we were making good ground and posted the fastest section of all the teams on the course at this point. That being said, eventual winners (and Wednesday 5.30am squad stalwarts Emily Loughnan and Gary Couanis) were looking very comfortable just ahead of us by 1m20s at this stage and making it all look very easy indeed!

As much as I tried, Brad's fast pace prevented me sneaking out any real smiles on the day - it was "game face" all the way!

Constantly getting out of the water, soaking wet and running up soft sand proved quite tedious very quickly! But check out those views!

One man pulling, one man being towed like an unwilling hound - guess who is who?!

And then it all went a bit pear-shaped. After some 2-2.5 hours of racing I momentarily lost concentration on one of the rockier sections whilst trying to put on a small visor to protect against the heat. I came crashing down in what seemed like slow-motion and landed on my left knee giving it a good knock and a bit of a gash. In my haste to get up and keep going and not lose too much ground, we believe we probably missed a key marker point on the course as the next thing we knew we were peering over the edge of a very steep cliff at the crashing waves below. We retraced our steps and found ourselves popping out at Energy Station number 5 or 6 by climbing over a barrier, only to the dismay of seeing 3 other teams had effectively caught us up. Argh!!! All that hard work had suddenly disappeared in a heart beat. We skipped the energy station for want of trying to peg back some time, but the damage had been done and suddenly the prospect of finishing 2nd overall seemed lost:

All smiles and form for Brad, all grimaces and soul searching for me!

Missing the energy station and a chance to refuel was a school boy error and sadly this is where things began to rapidly unwind for yours truly:

Brad the Machine giving me a pep-talk as we tried to catch 3rd place which would have seen us finish 1st male team - sadly my legs had other ideas and so too did the other team who ratcheted it up another notch!

I did plenty of soul searching in that last hour of the race and was faced with the prospect of the 2nd female team catching us on the final leg into the finish. Goodness knows where I got the energy from for the final 793m swim to the Army Jetty, but immediately across the line I collapsed in a heap, gripping my knee and feeling very woozy indeed! Brad looked as fresh as a daisy of course!

Massive credit to Gary Couanis and Emily Loughnan for winning the day in fine form! They made a brilliant team which is what this event is all about. Full results can be seen here: http://bluechipresults.com.au/results.aspx?CId=11&RId=983 

Emily and Gary: a deserved winning couple for the inaugural Rottnest SwimRun

20 people whom have (relatively) recently trained with the Swim Smooth Perth squad completed the event - well done you and everyone else - what an event to be part of in it's first year!

Brilliant organisation by the Rottnest SwimRun team led to a safe and fun event for all the participants in which everyone managed to get around the gruelling course - give it a blast next year!

A lot of people have asked me which was harder? Rottnest or the Scilly Isles. Despite the Scilling Isles being almost 3 hours longer and much, much colder in the water, the intensity of racing with a brilliant athlete in Brad and the sheer distance spent navigating soft sand and rugged rocks under the blazing heat, meant to me at least this was a much tougher course. Still, despite our initial disappointment of how the race went a bit pear-shaped for us in the final hour or so and despite all my whinging about my knee after the fall, this final photo says it all - I loved it, even if you didn't see a smile on my face during the race itself!



Thursday, March 9, 2017

So just how "hard" was the Rottnest Channel Swim 2017 and will the 2000 Solo record ever be broken?

So just how "hard" was the Rottnest Channel Swim 2017 and will the 2000 Solo record ever be broken?

Dear Swimmers

Following on from the very well received article last week Rottnest Swim 2017: Managing Expectation With Reality we are pleased to bring you this follow up article which aims to discuss and demonstrate statistically just how "hard" the 2017 event was in comparison to other years. 

This should be particularly interesting given how Saturday 25th February 2017 looked all set to be a record breaking day, in fact I vividly recall saying to the Channel Ten reporters how the conditions could see the mid to back pack swimmers swimming up to an hour quicker than "normal" (as was the view point of many people with the weather forecast). Even though myself and the prominent oceanographer Chari Pattiratchi from the University of WA's Ocean Institute correctly predicted the current and weather conditions with the instruction to definitely head north from the start line, I think the current proved to be much stronger than everyone expected. 

As we mentioned in the last blog, the "silent assassin" that is the current that lurks beneath, doesn't always give the impression that the conditions are necessarily "hard" per se (especially in comparison to notably rough years like 2003 and 2006 for those that can recall the event back that far), but as we found on the 25th times can become much slower than expected and this in itself makes for a "tough" day due to extra exposure to the elements.

One of the challenges with open water marathon swimming events is that the conditions can play a massive role on not just your finishing time, but also on whether you finish or not! Time to complete a set distance is always a quick and easy objective measure on how someone would perceive your performance (the first thing people will always ask you is "how long did it take you?"), but it never accounts for the conditions on the day. I remember swimming across the English Channel in September 2011 in prime physical condition hoping for a crossing time of roughly 9 hours, however, as I battled the 25-30kt SW winds (head on) and huge swell that day, my time of 12h14m (or 19m50s per km, which is barely "average") has never really felt like it was a just result for all the training, effort on the day and skill of my crew. When you view the conditions here you'll instantly sympathise with why it took me that long, but the record books only ever record your finishing time of course. Conversely when I won the world's longest and most prestigious marathon swim event (a 46km circumnavigation of Manhattan Island in New York) in 2013 in a time of 7h14m (or 9m25s per km, which is equivalent to Sun Yang's 1500m world record but repeated a crazy 30 times per continuously and without push-offs!), people who don't know the assistive currents of that race would assume I was superman or at the very least that I'd improved a LOT between 2011 and 2013! Whilst I definitely made improvements in those two years, I certainly wasn't more than twice as quick of course!

Bottom line, therefore, is that conditions are everything in open water marathon swimming. Judging your performance based on time alone is not very productive at all, but it does then beg the question, is there a way to statistically show within a large group of swimmers (like the Rottnest Channel Swim) some sort of scale of "hardness" for each year which is more objective than the simple subjective summation on the finish line of "that was a tough year" shared between competitors. Could you then even look back and retrospectively calculate what time you might have swum on a previous "good" year and equally can it help us identify whether someone like the Olympian Jarrod Poort who took out this year's race in fine style against the current, could have broken the 2000 record by Mark Saliba in 4h00m15s given more favourable conditions and even predict what time he might have feasibly done? The answer is yes…we think so!

If you love your numbers and your statistics you're going to love the solid work which squad swimmer Mike Fischer has put together single-handedly on this. The sceptics might also like to bring up the phrase popularised by Mark Twain:
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics!" 

…but that's OK, this is meant to be a little food for thought and perhaps some further solace for those of you who are still lingering on the feeling of under-achievement from this year's event. At the end of the day, we can't control Mother Nature, you can't change your results, but what you can do is try to understand how and why they were what they were.

Mike picks up the story and the detail...

Using data like this to draw conclusions always requires a few assumptions and the one that sits behind this analysis is that the field has been made up of swimmers with about the same abilities every year. There will always be faster and slower ones and individual performances on the day may vary from year to year, but overall we will assume that the field as a group is comparable from year to year. We have then generated graphs which show finishing time (or average pace) plotted against finishing position. The statistical "trick" we have used here is to consider the finishing position as a percentage of the overall field, rather than as an absolute number. This means that a swimmer finishing 150th in a field of 300 plots at the 50th percentile level, as would a swimmer finishing 100th in a field of 200 swimmers. This allows us to account for variations in the size of field from year to year and plot the data on the same axes.

Displayed as finishing time in minutes

Displayed as average pace in minutes per km

From Paul: interestingly enough I've always wanted to break 5 hours but have never yet done it. I have swum Solos in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. Using the data of these swims above which were between 9 and 23 minutes over 5 hours and looking at 2014 as an example (a cracker year), I would have probably swum under 5 hours in 2014, but only just…so it looks like that is still a very challenging target for me personally!

The first couple of graphs show these plots for each of the last 10 years, together with 2003 and 2006 and you will see that they all have a very similar shape, albeit that they are "shifted" vertically on the time/pace axis. The "S" shape curve reflects the fact that every field has a group of "gun" swimmers (typically around 10% of the field), a middle group (from around P10 through to P80) and a group of "steadier" swimmers bringing up the rear. The one exception is the toughest year, 2003, where the start was delayed by an hour due to conditions yet the cutoff times weren't altered. That means that the slower "tail" were either timed out or finished but didn't have their times recorded. We have replotted the data slightly to take this into account, but all the other data is exactly as the times were recorded – so every dot on the graph represents a swimmer walking out of the water at Thompsons Bay.
If we assume that the field has around the same abilities each year, then the "shift" in curves from year to year must be due to a combination of environmental conditions, with the ones towards the top (ie. The slowest) being the toughest years and the ones towards the bottom being the "easier" years (ie. The fastest). This ties in very well with anecdotal evidence from swimmers who have competed in multiple years, although this analysis allows us to be a little more quantitative. It is important to note that we can't separate the effects of swell/wind/current etc., but are looking at a combined effect of all the environmental factors. 
Having done this, we can then start using the data to draw some conclusions:
The first is the "degree of difficulty" (DoD) of each year's swim. If we assume that, on a scale from 1-100, the fastest years (2000 and 2014) are a "1" and the toughest year (2003) is a "100" we can then see where each year falls on that scale. Rather than use a single figure for each year, we have looked at the "gun" group, the middle group and the steady "tail" separately, characterizing them by the P20, the P50 and the P80 time/pace respectively. We have done this because although the curves have an overall similar shape there are subtle, but potentially significant, differences. As an example, look at the 2000 data where up to around P65 (corresponding to those who finished in a little under 7 hours) the field had a great swim. The curve becomes much steeper at that point, suggesting that something (either a current or, more likely, the sea breeze) has slowed the back end of the field significantly. The same trend can be seen in the data from 2006 where an already tough swim became increasingly difficult at P70 (corresponding to around 8hrs 30 mins) and 2009 at P40 (around 7 hrs). Unfortunately it always seems to get harder for the second half of the field (a steeper curve) and never easier…. 
We've then plotted the "degree of difficulty" for the front, the middle and the back of the field in a number of different ways; a simple bar chart, a "pinwheel of pain" and a "triangle of torture". Using the data to rank 2017, the quick end of the field had it the "easiest", with a score of 33%, although it still ranks as the most difficult swim since 2006. The "visible" conditions in 2017 were close to perfect, but the "silent assassin" has clearly had a major impact, even on the elite end of the pack. The day didn't get any easier unfortunately and the curve stays very steep through the middle of the pack with a P50 DoD of 54%. There is an interesting steepening of the curve at around P40, corresponding to a finish time of around 7 hours (around 1pm or so). This corresponds to the time at which the current was forecast to increase dramatically on the CSIRO data. Remember that a current of 1 knot equates to around 2km/hr so, assuming a swimmer was staying on or parallel to the rhumb line, for each kilometer they were traveling over the ground they were actually swimming close to 1.5km which may be the cause of the slowing of the field. The trend increases towards the back of the field, where it was a seriously tough day at the office, where the P20 DoD is 76% and close to both 2003 and 2006 in hardness, albeit for very different reasons.

Demonstration of which years have been the most "difficult" in the last 17 years (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 data omitted given specialist cases of 2000 - a known good year and 2003 / 2006 - known tough years. 2007 was cancelled due to bad weather)

The slower you are, sadly the harder the tougher years are for you as well compared to the pointy end of the field. This demonstrates how much of an advantage an early start time can prove to be also!

As above - the slower quartile receive the brunt of the environmental elements each year!

At the very sharp end of the field, we have plotted the winning time/pace against the P20 time/pace, with the latter being a "proxy" for the conditions. The data shows a nice linear trend as you would expect, with the tougher years having correspondingly slower winning times. There are, however, two exceptions to this trend; Mark Saliba in 2000 who finished in 4 hours and 15 seconds and Jarrod Poort in 2017 who finished in 4 hours 12 mins. Both of these swimmers "outperformed" the rest of the field by a considerable amount, making them the absolute standouts.

It is also possible to "reverse engineer" the environmental conditions out of individual performances and estimate what time a swimmer could have achieved had they performed the way they did in 2017, but had actually swum in a different year. This is certainly pushing the data a very long way but it brings up some interesting numbers. In particular, we have looked at Jarrod Poorts winning time in 2017 and estimated what times he would have swum  in each of the years we have looked at.

The data shows that had Jarrod travelled back in a time machine and swum in 2000, putting in a comparable performance to this year, he would have finished in around 3 hrs 48mins. Indeed, the graph shows that he would also have beaten the 4 hour mark in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2016.
Unfortunately the data is not predictive – meaning that we can only do this type of analysis after the race is over. So the mantra of anyone planning to swim a solo is to hope that it is a good year for conditions, but train as though it will be a tough year and then recognize that every year will be different, although you may not know it until you are well into the crossing. Ultimately the conditions are likely to have far more effect on your time than you expect, with variations of up to an hour at the sharp end, 2 hours or more in the middle of the field and up to 3 hours towards the back of the field and swimmers who can consistently hold a "race pace" of 20min/km in a good year, may struggle to achieve 25min/km in a more difficult year.

We hope you have enjoyed this analysis of the 2017 Rottnest Channel Swim - please feel free to share with your friends. Comments / feedback to swimsmooth@me.com