Updated: Mar 18
Swimming the Busselton Jetty Swim on February 14th and need some pointers?
First of all, congratulations on snagging an entry into the swim. Considering they filled up within two minutes, your lightning fast fingers deserve a round of applause!
While the 3.6km long event does not require as many tactics as the Rottnest Channel Swim, there are still plenty of tips you can use to swim as quickly as possible.
Here are a few pointers from Swimclan's very own Director and 2018 Busselton Jetty Swim winner, Andy Donaldson!
1. Take The Direct Route!
Whilst it's incredibly handy to have an enormously long jetty to follow, this is one of the very few times in open water swimming where you should cut the corner!
The Busselton Jetty is not an entirely straight structure as it has a dog-leg around 600m from the shore. Because of this, you want to aim for the very end of the jetty rather than following the curvature of it. Why swim the long way round when you can go straight to the point!
Not only will this save you time and energy, but it could also be the difference between you being caught up in a large group and becoming stuck in the pack.
2. Be ready for the conditions
Swimming in the pool is great. However if the conditions on the day are rough and you're not prepared for this, your comfort levels will get thrown out the window.
The Busselton Jetty Swim has had favourable conditions in recent years. However, there's every chance you'll encounter wind, swell and chop that can make the swim a hard slog.
2018 winner Andy Donaldson explained that whilst his year's conditions were okay, he did note large waves at the end of the jetty that made it difficult to swim around.
Undulating waves and surface chop will naturally force swimmers to adjust their stroke. They can also cause swimmers to lift their head higher than usual to avoid the waves and inhaling salt water. This puts immense pressure on your stroke, resulting in more stress and burnt energy.
Andy's suggestion, practice in similar type conditions so you'll know what to expect. This will help you experience the sensation of the waves, how they affect your stroke and will ultimately equip you for all situations.
As for sighting, make use of the swimmers around you and keep an eye on the jetty. This will help you know where you are and save you precious energy for the swim.
3. Breathe to the Jetty
One of the best things about the swim is that it's around an enormous wooden structure. Use this to your advantage by breathing to the left and using it to gauge where exactly you are (as the course is an anti-clockwise loop, the jetty will always be on your left).
Every swimmer has a dominant side they prefer to breathe on, even the elite guys. And for many, breathing to the opposite side might feel strange. This doesn't mean your body can't handle it or find a way to make it work.
Our bodies are clever and can get into a rhythm while under duress from exercise. If you find breathing to your left feels strange, after a few hundred metres you will notice you begin to click into gear.
Andy Donaldson notes that he breathed every two strokes in his race, almost always to the left. This helped him feed more oxygen to his muscles and also meant he knew where the jetty was at all times. During lengthy swims, your body increases in carbon dioxide and lactic acid, which triggers the need for air and oxygen. Breathing every two keeps this controlled.
The problem with breathing every three strokes? There's a lower consistency of oxygen being delivered to your muscles and you'll only keep an eye on the jetty every sixth stroke. This leads to wonky swim lines and a longer swimming distance.
Aim to breathe every two on your left-hand side the whole swim. If you do find your shoulders get sore doing this, throw in some backstroke or breathe a few times to the right to mix it up.
It's also wise to practice sight-breathing in training so you can become used to the sensation and extra energy this requires from your body during swimming.