Updated: Mar 18, 2021
One of the most iconic swims in Australia!
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!
Andy Donaldson with his piece of the jetty following his 2018 Busso Jetty win
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.
Cutting the corner - swimmers take the direct route
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.
Navigating tricky conditions
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.
Catching a good look - an example of 'sight-breathing'
4. Save gas for the second half
Just like the Rottnest Channel Swim, the Busselton Jetty Swim has seen a lot of participants cook themselves during the first half by going out too hard too early.
It's always best to use the first kilometre or so as a solid warm up and gradually build your pace and rhythm into the race.
If you're looking at smashing out a solid time, aim to break down the jetty into quarters. A great way of keeping your pace consistent is to swim the first quarter at 85%, the next quarter at 90%, the third at 95% before giving it everything for the final stretch.
The conditions can get quite choppy as you swim back, especially with unfavourable winds. Make sure you look after your body and reserve plenty of gas in the tank for the final stretch.
It's also advisable to consider tinted goggles as you might be breathing straight into the sun when swimming back to the finish. This will reduce the glare and make it easier to spot the finish line. On overcast days, clear goggles are the way to go as their lenses are not as dark.
Swim smart, pacing is your friend.
5. Familiarise yourself with the course and the finish
Before the race, it's paramount that you familiarise yourself with the course. At the Busselton Jetty Swim, it's very easy to swim the return half not knowing where you're going and not knowing where the finish is.
Also in many cases, swimmers often rely on others to do their navigation. This creates risks such as following someone off course, missing cans or swimming hundreds of unnecessary metres.
Our advice is that you check the course map, attend the race briefing, and pick something to aim at for the finish. Walk down to the finish line before your race and identify landmarks that are easily recognisable from a long way offshore, such as a large tree, colourful object or building.
This means that during your swim, you will have something that is noticeable to aim for and that you can confidently swim towards.
For the Busselton Jetty Swim, the finish line itself is immediately to the south of the miniature jetty and bathing pools on the beach. So pick something out and make sure you swim towards it when you reach the dog-leg of the jetty.
Busselton Jetty Swim Course. A longer way round on the left versus cutting the corner on the right!
6. Hand hits sand? Get your feet on the land
The home stretch is a critical part of a race that can be the difference between you finishing ahead of the guy beside you or behind.
At Busselton, it's a beach finish which requires careful navigation over the bank and knowing when to swim versus when to run.
Typically, swimming is faster than wading through waist-deep water, so it's all about the timing. The golden rule is that the moment you feel your hand hitting the sand, it's time to stand up and start running.
From there, you must ensure that you lift your knees high and rotate them around your body. Otherwise you may find yourself falling flat on your face like Andy Donaldson discovered below in a close finish!
Need any more tips for the Busselton Jetty Swim?
Book in for a session with Swimclan here to receive technique and race tips from elite swimmers!