Champions of the Channel – Drafting Rule

For the first time in 2016, the community event incorporated Champions of the Channel. It was our intention that this would be a separate race and would run in accordance with FINA rules, officiated by Swimming WA Technical Officials.

The Rottnest Channel Swim Association (RCSA) has viewed some on-water footage, which draws attention to the matter of drafting, and we are aware that there has been some ambiguity around whether or not drafting is legal as part of Champions of the Channel.


Drafting is not a violation of the FINA rules.

Rottnest Channel Swim:

“… swimmers cannot…draft from an escort boat, paddle craft or other swimmer.”   If drafting is witnessed as part of the Rottnest Channel Swim, Race Officials are instructed to follow these steps:

  1. Make communication with the swimmer and instruct the swimmer to move away from the escort boat/swimmer/paddle craft. Issue a warning, informing the swimmer that he/she is in a violation of the Rules.
  1. Upon observing a second violation, the Race Official may use discretion as to whether they will issue another warning or a disqualification. The Race Official will make communication with the swimmer and instruct the swimmer accordingly. If disqualified, the swimmer must leave the water immediately and board the escort boat. If a Race Official issued a second warning, a third violation would result in an instant disqualification.

An event the scale of the Rottnest Channel Swim relies heavily on good sportsmanship and a community of like-minded swimmers to support each other.  Where drafting is perceived, swimmers have the right to request a Race Official to attend for inspection.

Race Officials did not observe any drafting as part of Champions of the Channel nor were they asked to attend a perceived breach.

With Champions of the Channel being a small fleet, Race Officials were able to spend a substantial amount of time with the lead swimmers of each category. They saw some boats and swimmers especially close to one another, but swimmers were alongside each other (shoulder-to-shoulder), not tailing (drafting).

Our Race Officials are all extremely experienced and well qualified in open water swimming judging.  Coupled with their attendance and constant movement throughout the fleet on event day, the RCSA is confident that the current drafting processes and rules provide protection for all of our swimmers, and a channel of recourse throughout the day, if required.  The RCSA will, however, ensure that the distinction between Champions of the Channel and Rottnest Channel Swim rules are clarified ahead of the 2017 event.