The Rottnest Swim is a 20km open water swim which starts at Cottesloe Beach and finishes at Rottnest Island. It has now grown to be so popular that there's a ballot to enter a team in the race. Our sailing crew managed to win the ballot to enter the race so we all helped out as support crew.
The standard Perth summer weather conditions are an offshore easterly wind overnight and into the morning before an onshore seabreeze later in the day. Therefore, it's best to start swimming west to Rottnest Island with the offshore breeze as a tailwind and get as far west to Rottnest as possible before the seabreeze comes in. The start time for our swim team was 7.15am but we needed to be on the boat at 4am to motor up to the start line and get organised.
The support team needs a boat to provide safety and recovery for the swimmer(s) and navigate the course over to Rottnest Island. A kayaker paddles very close to the swimmer to guide the swimmer along the correct course as it's very difficult to see any distance when swimming.
My support crew role was kayaking so I stepped off the back of the yacht into the kayak to meet our swimmer at Cottesloe for the start. Our swimmer was Scottish so naturally I was given a Scottish flag to help identify me amongst hundreds of other kayakers and support boats.
Our swimmer started and we found each other relatively quickly thanks to the Scottish flag! The first 1km of the swim was relatively straightforward as no support boats were allowed in the swim channel. But after that it was chaos with boats, kayaks and swimmers everywhere. So I did my best to protect our swim team. Even at the start, it was a steady southeasterly wind that soon became a southerly crosswind so we knew we were in for a difficult crossing.
The swim team of four swimmers took turns to swim 10 minutes each at a time and rotated through resting and recovering on the support boat. We continued west, before the wind died out. But it wasn't long before the seabreeze started and we were battling to make the cutoff time for the 10km mark. We just made the mark, but with choppy seas and a headwind the writing was on the wall that we'd need to retire. It was unfortunate, but there wasn't much we could do about it.
We decided to retire from the race and pull the swimmers and support craft into the yacht. Then it was time for the Rottnest pub! It's easily one of the busiest days of the year at Rottnest so we soaked up the atmosphere and had a good chat over a few beers. Perhaps we'll enter a team again and hopefully have better conditions next time.
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