Skipper & Support Boat Information

Skipper Role & Responsibilities

The role of the skipper is arguably the most important on Port to Pub day. Skippers control all matters related to their boats and are responsible for the safety and well-being of their swimmer/s, paddler/s, and support crew. Skippers are the key to a safe and successful crossing for all participants.

Skipper responsibilities include:

The skipper sets the course, and swimmers and paddlers must follow that course. Skippers should familiarise themselves with the course and chart the course prior to race day.

The skipper must be aware of the regulations and requirements related to travelling to Rottnest Island.

Skippers must hold a recreational skipper’s ticket or similar valid licence. This must be carried with on them on race day.

It is recommended that support vessels have adequate cover for the risk present on race day.

Skippers must, at all times, follow Event Rules and be aware of other event participants both in the water and on race vessels. Solo swimmers have the right of way at all times. Set each crew member specific tasks, with one member being responsible to watch for swimmers in your immediate vicinity. Your own swimmer/s must never be out of sight or out of mind.

Your radio must be on at all times.

We recommend that skippers participating in Port to Pub register with Fremantle Sea Rescue. Fremantle Sea Rescue performs search and rescue operations for the event. Upon joining, your skipper and boat details are added to its database so that your vessel (and, therefore, your swimmer/s and crew) can more easily be located should assistance be required. Registration can be completed or renewed on the Fremantle Sea Rescue website.

Things to Know on Race Day

Transport protocols
Follow transport protocols on your way to the event. It will be dark, so have correct lighting. Allow plenty of time due to boat traffic.

The support boat should be positioned in one of the holding zones approximately 30 minutes before the swimmer’s allocated start wave.

Speed & Distance
All boats need to keep within an 8-knot speed limit and stay ~10 metres from their swimmers.

Boats withdrawing from the event must be at least 200 metres from the race channel and main fleet before increasing boat speed past 8 knots.

Swimmer changeovers
Boats with single engines must be in neutral during swimmer changeovers. Boats with twin engines must switch both engines off completely during swimmer changeovers. Boats must not circle towards other swimmer paths during pickups.

Manoeuvring safely
Boats should not go astern at all; however, skippers can use reverse thrust to stop the forward way of their boat to avoid swimmer, paddler, or vessel collision. This must be done in a controlled manner with the skipper checking that it is all clear behind the boat before acting.

Commercial vessel traffic
Support craft, paddlers, and swimmers will be advised of commercial vessels expected to pass through the field by Fremantle Sea Rescue via radio communications and Fremantle Sea Rescue vessels on the water.

Incident reports
Skippers must submit a marine incident report form to the DoT Marine Safety Section within 48 hours of an incident occurring. It is the skipper’s responsibility to submit the relevant reports to the DoT.

Support Boat Requirements

It is extremely important important to prepare the support boat for race day — this includes checking that everything on board is current, up-to-date, and in working order.

Licence & Registration
All support craft and tenders must have a valid licence and registration. The support vessel needs to make allowances for people and watercraft; it is recommended to be 5-10 metres in length. Vessels of 10m and over are advised to stay south of the channel and main fleet. Tenders should be 3.1 metres or less in size with a motor not exceeding 5hp; anything over that size is required to be registered.

Boat occupancy
Refer to DoT requirements on boat size and occupants or your Boat Builder’s Plate to determine how many people are legally permitted on board. Your boat must be licensed to carry your whole team (e.g., skipper, swimmer/s, paddler/s, spotter, and/or other support crew).

Safety equipment
Support boats must be equipped with mandatory marine safety and emergency equipment as per the WA Navigable Water regulations.

Propeller guard
Port to Pub recommends that all vessels have propeller guards installed.

Vessel size restrictions
Vessels used in the Hotel Rottnest Port to Pub are restricted to 5 – 12 metres in length. If your vessel is over 10 metres, you are advised to stay south of the channel and the main fleet.

Support boats are to be organised by entrants and are not supplied by Port to Pub. No personal watercraft (e.g., jet skis) is allowed.

Support Boat Checklist

Support Boat Safety Equipment

It is essential that support boats carry mandatory safety equipment. If the boat fails to meet DoT standards, the swimmer/team may face disqualification.

Start Channel Procedures

Holding Areas
Support boats are required to wait in a holding area prior to their swimmer’s wave start. Boats can choose to wait in the ‘North’ or ‘South’ holding areas:

  • ‘North’ is 600m north of the start channel and adjacent the railway pedestrian bridge
  • ‘South’ is 600m south of the start channel and adjacent the Coast Port Beach restaurant

Paddlers are to assemble at the buoys 500 metres offshore five minutes prior to wave start at the agreed north or south holding area (for 25km paddlers the north holding area is recommended).

Support boat starts
The support boat should act in accordance with its swimmer’s wave start time and the boat coordinator’s instructions:

  • 30 min to start: Support boat to be waiting in one of the two holding areas
  • 15 min to start: Boat to proceed to the front of the holding area
  • Via VHF Channel 74: The boat coordinator will advise when to move the support boat from the holding area to the start channel; be sure to avoid mixing with previous start wave support boats leaving the start channel
  • Meeting your swimmer: Support boats must meet their swimmer after the swimmer passes the 1000m marker (green) buoys; boats must not approach their swimmer within 1000 metres of shore

Race officials patrol the holding areas and start channel to ensure that support boats maintain proper positioning.

Misplaced (Unaccompanied) Swimmers
The Cape Arid tug boat (see photo above) will be anchored at the 1500 metre mark. Unaccompanied swimmers must swim to this vessel to tread water and must not proceed any further without their support boat.

If the swimmer has not been joined by their paddler and support boat after 20 minutes, the swimmer will be returned to Leighton Beach. The same treatment applies to swimmers that have located their paddler but not their support boat.

Once the support boat has been located, the swimmer (and paddler) may proceed beyond the 1500m marker.

Make sure that you have a plan; know how to identity your paddler and swimmer; and estimate ahead of time how long it should take for the swimmer to swim 1000 metres. No duo or team member swimmer changeovers are to take place in the first 1000 metres of the event.

Swimmer Changeovers

During changeovers, skippers of boats with single engines must put their boat into neutral and only engage them when instructed by the spotter. Skippers of boats with double outboards must turn the engine completely off before taking the swimmer on board.

Boats should not circle towards other swimmers’ paths during pickups.

Boats should not go astern at all; however, skippers can use reverse thrust to stop the forward way of their boat to avoid swimmer, paddler, or vessel collision. This must be done in a controlled manner with the skipper checking that it is all clear directly behind the boat before acting.

Extreme caution should be used when picking up swimmers and paddlers. Solo swimmers have right of way and interference should be avoided at all costs.

Spotters provide assistance as needed to ensure safe changeovers, including the safety of other swimmers and support craft.

The changeover can be very stressful — take extreme caution, use good manners, and remain calm. Be aware of the ever present danger of the propeller as most injuries are caused by a swimmer's own boat.

Finish Procedures

Support Boat Instructions at 18KM & 19KM Markers

  • Support boats that are more than 10 metres in length must leave the swim course at the 18km gate.
  • Support boats that are 10 metres or less in length may leave the swim course (but are not required to) at the 18km gate.
  • Support boats that go beyond the 18km gate are encouraged to navigate to the boundaries of the swim course as the next kilometre of the course can become heavily congested.
  • At the 19km marker, support boats still on the course must leave their swimmer/s and depart the swim channel by veering to the north or south. Boats must not cross back over the swim channel; if they do so, they risk disqualification of their swimmer/s.

Once their swimmer/s race is complete, support boats are to go to the fuel jetty to drop off any individuals and/or items needing to be removed from the boat. The support boat can then moor off Rottnest Island or return back to the mainland.

Support Boat Radio Communications

General traffic
This includes general announcements and safety warnings (e.g., navigation guidance, alerts to shipping movements in the channel), responses to radio checks, and other non-urgent communications from Port to Pub Swim Base (PPSB) via VHF Channel 74.

Mayday call
The distress call Mayday may be used only if the boat is threatened by grave and imminent danger – for example, sinking or on fire – and immediate assistance is required. This distress call has absolute priority over all other transmissions and may be transmitted only on the authority of the skipper or the person responsible for the safety of the vessel. Stay calm, explain the problem, and give position and distress information clearly:

“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is… [vessel competitor number]. Our position is… [Details of the vessel’s position]. Our vessel is… [Nature of distress and assistance required is identified]. I have… [other information including number of persons on board].”

Mayday calls are made via VHF Channel 16.

Pan Pan call
The urgency call should be used when the distress call cannot be justified but there is an urgent message to transmit concerning the safety of the vessel or the safety of a person (for example, mechanical breakdown, medical emergency, or a man overboard).

“Pan Pan, Pan Pan, Pan Pan. This is… [vessel competitor number] requiring urgent [medical or vessel] assistance. “Our position is… [Details of the vessel’s position]. I require… [Details of assistance required and other information].

Pan Pan calls are made via VHF Channel 16.

Tips & Info for Course Planning

We recommend that skippers plan for and plot their course ahead of race day.

Download Port to Pub buoy coordinates (Excel file).
Download the Port to Pub buoy coordinates (GPX file).

Look at local weather sites to make informed decisions on the course you will take; recommended websites include,,, and (which also provides valuable information about currents).

Skipper tips ahead of race day:

  • Enter the marked coordinates provided above into your GPS/plotter.
  • Confirm which side of start boundary (North or South) you will meet your swimmer. Have a back-up plan for what to do if you don’t immediately find your swimmer.
  • Skippers without plotters can download the Navionics/Aus/NZ and/or Pro Charts Marine Navigation apps to help with navigation.

Skipper tips for race day:

  • Once called into position by the Race Director, the skipper should go to the approximate area to meet their swimmer. When in this position, set “go to” on plotter to build track to first km buoy marker.
  • As you reach each marker, set another “go to” to the next buoy. If your swimmer or boat drifts off the set route, simply reset another “go to” and start another track. Zig zagging to get back onto rhumb line is not suggested.
  • Take note of how your boat drifts when you stop for feeds or other reasons (zoom in on plotter to do this); this will provide information on current and wind influence and help make decisions about your route.
  • Once at the 17km and 18km markers make sure you are on the rhumb line or within close proximity.