Prepare and Prosper - how to enjoy your Port to Pub crossing by Elena Nesci
Elena Nesci is Principal Coach at eSWIM, and has trained hundreds of swimmers to successful solo and team crossings to Rottnest. She has completed solo, duo and team crossings to Rottnest.
Participating in a distance swimming event like the Hotel Rottnest Port to Pub can be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences you’ll ever have, but to ensure you have the best possible day out, it’s important you properly prepare yourself and your team.
Some parts are obvious like goggles, bathers, a boat and a skipper, but there are many other elements you might not have considered in your excitement to get ready for race day. Below is a list of items to consider that could make or break your day.
- It’s a LONG day! Whether you’re swimming solo or in a team of six, chances are you’ll be up and active very early on race day and that means you need to work out how much food you and your entire support team are going to need for upwards of 6-8 hours. Swimmers should have all their refuelling requirements sorted the day before, labelled and explained to their support crew so there is no confusion and you should also consider that your crossing may take a little longer that you’d planned if conditions are rough. Better to have provisions left over than run out! There’s no UberEATS on the high seas…..yet!
- Start logistics.To ensure everyone on your team (swimmers, skippers, paddlers, support crew) knows where and when they need to be on race day, hold a team meeting and discuss logistics. Where is the boat launching and at what time? Have you arranged for the dry clothes, towels, food etc of the swimmer heading off the beach to be on the boat so they have something to change into? What time and where will the paddler meet the swimmer before the race? Have you discussed which side of the start channel the paddler, and then the boat, will meet up with the swimmer going off the beach? What will the paddler be wearing? Is the paddler familiar with the swimmer’s stroke so they can identify them? What is the name of the boat and what does it look like – any distinguishing features? When will you be performing your first changeover? (if applicable)
- Changeovers.Team swimmers may need to get in and out of the boat upwards of 15 – 20 times depending on your chosen swim interval time, how many swimmers are in your team and how long it takes you to complete the crossing. Before you settle on your swim interval (the amount of time each swimmer will spend in the water each turn), work out how long you think your crossing might take and then work out how many times that will mean you have to get in and out of the boat and whether or not you will have enough time to dry off, get warm, refuel and then get ready to get back in again! Have you considered a tow rope to pull the swimmers back in to the boat? This can save a lot of time and energy on the changeovers. Practise your changeover process before race day if possible.
- Sunscreen. Refer to point 1! It’s a long day and that means, hopefully, a long day in blazing sunshine. Swimmers should apply a full layer of sunscreen BEFORE they leave the house on race morning covering their entire body and then reapply as frequently as possible. Solo swimmers should apply at least two layers of sunscreen / zinc and consider putting sunscreen on the soles of their feet! If your boat doesn’t have shade, hats are a must, or you could suffer the effects of heatstroke.Don’t forget sunglasses either as you’ll be leaving the house in the dark and won’t think to need them.
- Staying warm.We’ll be ordering perfect conditions for race day but it’s still possible to get very cold even on a 40-degree day so make sure you and your team are properly prepared. Team swimmers and solos will need to look at different measures to stave off the cold with solo swimmers relying on proper refuelling, warm water (to drink) and short rest stops to keep moving, while team swimmers will need to ensure they dry off and wrap up between stints. Even if you have never suffered from the cold you should consider the following items to avoid developing hypothermia:
Sports chamois to dry off (team swimmers)
Several towels and/or blankets to wrap yourself in between stints
Thermoses of hot water – dilute to warm before drinking
Beanies, ugg boots, warm jackets and thermals/ fleece pants
Do you and your support crew know what to do if one of your members is showing the signs of hypothermia? Familiarise yourself with the information in the event handbook just in case.
- Lotions, potions and magic elixirs! You may never have suffered from sea-sickness before but have you ever been on an idling boat for 8 hours before? Even salty sea dogs have become sick during a crossing so it’s always wise to consider taking some sea-sickness tablets BEFORE you start your day. If you’re also planning on taking anti-histamines (for stingers), anti-inflamms and/or painkillers or any other medication, make sure you try your race day combination before race day so you don’t get any nasty surprises when they all hit your stomach at once. Best not to try anything for the first time on race day! And remember that most sea-sickness medication will dehydrate you so you need to keep your fluids up, which you should be doing anyway.
- Celebrations.When you get to Rotto and you’re looking to celebrate your amazing achievement, the last thing you want to be doing is wandering about trying to find your boat and support crew. Make sure you’ve arranged a meeting spot for your swimmer/s, paddler/s, boat etc. Swimmers and paddlers can head into the recovery tent at Hotel Rottnest where you can enjoy a warm shower, hydration, refreshments, and a massage. – this is a really good idea before you start your celebrations proper. Otherwise, you might find yourself curled up under a tree having a snooze with the quokkas and miss all the partying….that may still happen but at least you will have tried to avoid it!
Remember the adage that ‘Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance’and make your Port to Pub Crossing a day to remember.