Swimmers and their escort yackers should work together as a team. That’s why we list both when we report times. Yackers navigate; they feed; and they protect. Here are some simple guidelines for yackers (and swimmers) to help maximize the synergy of your partnership on the water.
The Golden Rule
Take care of yourself first. Dress appropriately. Typically weather conditions will change more than once during the course of a swim. Expect rain, wind, cold, sun, heat. Wear a good hat to protect you from the sun AND the rain. Bring nutrition and hydration for yourself. Drink and feed on a regular basis. Remember the oxygen mask airplane direction. Parents, mask yourself first and then mask your kids. You are no good to your swimmer if you are dehydrated and undernourished.
Swimmer controls the speed. Yacker controls the direction.
First thing to do is to figure out where your swimmer should be situated in relation to the kayak. 3 feet to 10 feet on the left or right. Slightly ahead (so the swimmer can look back when she takes a breath). Right along side (so the swimmer looks directly at the side of the kayak) or toward the rear (so the swimmer looks a bit ahead to see the kayak). Which side of the kayak may depend on how the swimmer breathes and also if they tend to swerve left or right (You want to be able to block those inclinations with your kayak. And don’t be afraid to let them hit you if they are swerving.) You may also adjust positioning during the swim, depending on waves and wind so that you (yacker) are down wind and the swimmer is breathing away from the chop when he sights off of you.
Many swimmers are not used to having escorts and are used to sighting for themselves during informal swims and at many events. It is VERY HARD for these swimmers to take advantage of an escort yacker, stop sighting for themselves, and simply sight off the bright plastic that is right beside them. Those who can do this will save energy, increase their speed and efficiency, and prosper. Those who can’t will find themselves wandering all over the lake. Fun to watch and yes, they are getting more swim for their money. But ….
It is NOT the job of the yacker to stay by the side of the swimmer. It is the swimmer’s job to STAY BY THE SIDE OF THE YACKER. There is no great way to deal with the wandering swimmer – The one who is charting his own course regardless of proximity to the kayak. Do you go get him? Do you cry for his attention and get him to come to you? The latter is the best, but often doesn’t work. WHY, because swimmers are stubborn, water logged idiots, who have forgotten that it is up to them to stay close to the kayak, not the other way around.
Remember, the yacker is the navigator. You are higher in the water. You can see where you are going. And, if you are a good navigator, you will keep the course straight and true (more on this below). We have seen a first class navigator guide a 10 year old straight and true to victory on a 3 mile course because the adult competition refused to follow their escort yackers and wandered way wide around the course. If this is going on, talk to your swimmer during feeds. Whack him with your paddle if you need to knock some sense into him. But ultimately, one of your jobs is to give your swimmer visibility in the water to boat traffic and to be able to feed and support and monitor him. So, yes, if your swimmer decides to stay stubborn and sight for himself, you do end up staying with your swimmer. But if that’s happening, growl a bit and try to pull your swimmer back on course.
This year, we are trying out a new rule, that the swimmer must swim within 15 feet of the kayaker AT ALL TIMES after they pair up at the start. If we see a wandering swimmer we will warn the team once. Repeat “offenses” could result in disqualification. It’s a matter of SAFETY.
Your swimmer should provide you with feeds and with a feeding schedule that she has trained with. (Swimmers who have deviated from their training schedules on race day have often paid a price.) Generally, on marathon swims (10K or more) feeding is every half hour, sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes 40. Three milers may only want one feed during the race. Some Three Milers may not feed at all.
It will be your responsibility to get a clear feeding schedule before the swim and then let the swimmer know when it is time to feed. So bring a watch, preferably with a timer that will beep. Do not let your swimmer miss or delay a feeding simply because they are feeling good. They need to stay ahead of their hydration and nutrition needs. Some are swimming a distance slightly longer than anything they have done in their lives. So you don’t want your 10 miler to “hit a wall” on mile 6 because that’s the longest distance she’s swam before this event.
Feeds should be simple to store and simple to deliver. Swimmers should not ask you to mix their feeds during a swim. They should provide you with pre mixed bottles. If there are a couple of variations, they should be well identified with a clear delivery schedule. Recommended delivery system is to duct tape thin rope to the bottles before the swim and simply toss the bottle to the swimmer and reel it in when they are done. Remember, it is against the rules for a swimmer to lean on the kayak or touch his support yacker. Why keep it so simple? If the lake gets frisky, you don’t have much time to drop your paddle, deliver the feed, and avoid getting blown back or forward during the feed.
Kingdom Swim involves what we call long course open water swimming. The ten mile swim is NOT a one mile loop that goes round and round with buoys every hundred yards. The buoys are far apart and no more than absolutely necessary to mark the course and the turns. We will have patrol boats stationed at important buoys to help you spot the next buoy. But really you should identify the landmarks associated with the buoys either on the boat tours the day before or when the patrol boat helps you spot the buoy. (Some examples: Aim to the point almost due north along the west coast of the lake between Buoy 2 and Buoy 3. Aim for the white boat house east north east between Buoy 3 and 4. Aim for the west side of The Bluffs between Buoy 6 and 7) Those are the big ones. As we said, we will position boats at these key turns to help the longer distance swimmers find their way. And, the buoys are visible one to the other, especially once you know where to look.
Do NOT point your kayak directly at a buoy and expect to travel straight to it. Wind and surface lake currents will carry you into an arc or into some very strange eddies and you will never even know it. You must be constantly adjusting and correcting.
Simple approach. An example: You are heading southwest from Buoy 6 at Bell Island to Buoy 7 just west of The Bluffs. If the wind is coming from the northwest, you can anticipate that it will be blowing you off course. So point your kayak well to the west of the point you are aiming for and you will be automatically correcting as you go.
IF you can spot a landmark behind the buoy you are aiming for, line them up and keep them lined up. If they get out of alignment, make a correction to bring them back into line. That’s the surest way to navigate straight and true.
Trouble comes in many forms. Don’tcha know it!
But when a swimmer is in distress, (exhausted, hypothermic, or dehydrated), and can’t work through it. DON’T BE A HERO. Toss the life jacket and signal for help to one of the patrol boats. They will be the ones to pull the swimmer out of the water and bring them to shore. We don’t want two people in distress. Distressed swimmers actually happen very rarely in our swims. The first rule of safety is that swimmers should be qualified and prepared for the distance they are undertaking. Having that requirement has helped us avoid a lot of problems.
How do you signal for help? Several ways.
Wave an American flag. We will be giving every swimmer a small American flag. Keep it inside your kayak. Pull it out and wave it, if you are in need. And don’t wear an Orange shirt. Yellow is good. But not orange. Our buoys are orange. So, we don’t want to make it even more difficult to see them.
Blow your horn ONCE. We recommend that every yacker bring an air horn to blow in the event of distress, but only IF the American flag wave is not effective. Don’t blow it more than once (Three times would clear the lake.) And keep waving the flag.
Call Central Command. Bring your cell phone in a zip lock plastic bag. We will give you a central number to call to be programed into your phone so you can simply push and call. And please make sure we have YOUR cell phone. There are times we may need to call you out on the lake. But also, in the event your swimmer is pulled or there is a mass evacuation, we need to know how to reach you.
Hypothermia is deep cold, not the shivers. It occurs when the core of a swimmer’s body gets so cold that organs begin to shut down. It’s different than just being cold. So, how do you spot it?
Stroke Speed. Ask your swimmer his typical stroke speed before the swim. Measure it at some point early in the swim. And check on it every so often. If it starts dropping significantly, tell your swimmer to pick it up, increase her stroke speed and give her some extra feed and water. Often that is just enough to get them back on track. If stroke speed continues to drop, that becomes a sign of trouble brewing.
The Claw. The swimmer’s hands may develop a claw like formation that he can’t control. Also a sign of trouble.
Slurred Speech. Talk to your swimmer during feedings, even briefly. Slurring of speech is an early indicator.
Peeing. On shorter swims, some swimmers just don’t pee. But on longer swims, experienced marathoners will pee. Ask your swimmer if he is peeing. If so, continue to ask at every feed so you get a baseline. He may pee between every feed or between every other feed. If he stops peeing, it’s a sign of trouble, i.e., that the kidney is shutting down. Then again, if he doesn’t pee at the start, it’s less of an indicator later on.
Disorientation. Get some simple information from your swimmer before the swim. Name of her high school. How many brothers and sisters. That kind of thing. If you are seeing other symptoms, ask her some simple questions. If she can’t answer them, and other signs are developing, it’s time to call it quits. Signal for help. We will pick her up. We will have sleeping bags and warm fluids, and we will get your swimmer off the lake.
Many times a swimmer will work through being cold and will pick it back up and be able to continue. But remember, IT IS YOUR CALL NOT YOUR SWIMMER’S as to whether it is time to pull. Obviously, you try for consensus. But if a swimmer is disoriented with hypothermia, he is not in a position to fully appreciate a serious situation should it arise. And we will have boats on the lake to assist you in making that call.
Lightning, dense fog, extremely high winds, or other game stopping events
We will not hesitate to call a swim in the event of serious threat of thunderstorms, dense fog, or extremely high winds that impair the ability of kayakers to stay close to their swimmers. Then again, frisky conditions are often part of our swims.
The signal to clear the lake is three loud, long blasts. They will be repeated. Swimmers should cluster to the extent that they can so the patrol boats can pick them up efficiently. We will remove swimmers from the lake first. Once a swimmer is picked up, kayakers should paddle to the nearest shore. We will have several emergency exit locations marked on our charts.
We don’t fool around with the threat of thunderstorms. Or seriously dangerous conditions. Frisky is fine. We love the challenge and so do many swimmers. Some of you may decide to pull yourselves. And that too is fine. There is no shame in that whatsoever. But, some wind and whitecaps or some rain. We will let the swimmers swim. This is a great lake to experience challenge. Shores close by, but feisty conditions at times are great experiences on their own and wonderful preparation for other challenges ahead.
You are not alone
We have battle hardened and experienced motorized patrol boats out on the water monitoring events on the lake. They will respond to your calls for assistance. They will provide help with directions from one turn buoy to the next. If they spot incoming boat traffic, they will intercept it and slow it down.
There will be at least one Newport City police boat out on the lake. They are trained and ready to provide emergency help to a swimmer who needs help.
We will have EMTs and an Ambulance on the beach ready to evaluate swimmers when they come off the water and at the ready to transport a swimmer to the local emergency room which is only three minutes away.
As a monitor of your swimmer’s condition, you will have a lot of trained and experienced support if you need it.
The dirty secret
Yackers have to pee too. Bring a wide mouth pee cup if that works for you. Depends also works well. You can wear them or keep them separate (if you bring a garbage bag to store them.) One experienced yacker we know pees on a sponge and then rinses it out.
What to bring
Two PFDs, one for you and one for your swimmer. We do expect you to wear your pfd during the swim. Remember, it should not be orange.
An air horn. (We will have extras to provide, if you don’t have one)
An American flag (which we will provide)
A cell phone in a zip lock plastic bag
Food and fluid for yourself
Clothing suitable to protect you from wind and rain, hot and cold.
Oh yeh, your swimmer’s PRE-MIXED feed and a written schedule.
Have some fun out there. This lake has some real personality and subtly stunning beauty. There is nothing like great yacker-swimming teamwork. We are thrilled you are joining us for Kingdom Swim.
If you have ANY questions whatsoever, please ask them. It means others have them too.
See you soon.
Phil White, Director