We had another pleasant sunny autumn morning at Doddi's Beach, albeit that there was a warm wind from the north that caused a little more chop than we have been experiencing recently. It was also great that three members and two dogs volunteered to act as Spotters. All in all, it looked like just another day in paradise; however, it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security.
For our Spotters, a northerly chop with the sun low in the northern sky made trying to keep track of swimmers very difficult and stressful, much more so with swimmers on their own further from shore. While the majority swim in a group, inevitably: some get ahead and others fall behind, some swim close to shore and some out near the boating exclusion buoys.
What was the problem - We are not swimming with a buddy and swimmers are too far offshore!
Swimming with a buddy is very important because:
Two swimmers together are much easier to spot than a single swimmer;
Two swimmers are more likely to stay on course; and
One swimmer can raise the alarm and, if safe to do so, render assistance to their buddy.
In choppy or rough conditions, swimmers should swim as close to shore as conditions permit, rather than follow the summer practice of swimming a "circular" course; i.e. close to shore out and around the pontoon coming back. The pontoon has been removed and as we approach winter less and less swimmers are completing more than one lap. Consequently, the risk of accidental collisions between swimmers swimming in opposite directions is reduced. Arguably, the benefit to safety gained by swimming a "circular" course is out-weighed by the additional risks associated with a reduced ability to render assistance to a swimmer further offshore in rough conditions.
Members are responsible for their own safety. However, the Club also shares responsibility for your safety, a responsibility we take very seriously. Our Open Water Training/Swimming Policy (Appendix E of the 2017 Club By-laws) sets out the open water safety measures the Club implements, including:
Providing a 1st Aid Kit and Defibrillator on the beach.
Ensuring 1st Aid Personnel are present at every swim, including ensuring there is sufficient qualified members available to fill that role by keeping a 1st Aid Register and sponsoring members to obtain/keep up-to-date 1st Aid Qualifications.
Encouraging swimmers to:
Only swim if you are comfortable with the conditions and confident in your ability;
Use the Register to "Sign in" before swimming and "Sign out" after swimming;
If arriving late, informing the Spotter and joining the group at the turning point; rather than swimming alone;
Swim wearing a brightly coloured swim cap;
Swim with a buddy of similar speed;
Swim within standing depth of water, where possible, or within a depth that the swimmer feels safe for their level of fitness and ability;
Look up regularly and be aware of people and obstacles in the water; and
Swim within the boating exclusion zone.
Providing brightly coloured inflatable Swim Tow Floats.
Appointing a "Spotter" to watch over the swimmers, who carries an air horn to signal in the case of an emergency.
Appointing a "Swim Leader" to, as much as is practicable, keep account of all the swimmers.
Requesting swimmers read the Open Water Training/Swimming Policy (OWTSP).
The Club, your committee and the members volunteering every swim as a Spotter, Swim Leader or 1st Aid Officer do their best to ensure your safety. As a Club, we can't force individuals to comply with our OWTSP, we can only ask that they please do so.