As you know, the Rottnest Channel Swim Association (RCSA) has been working hard to find ways to allow more people to participate safely in our annual event.
Once again 2015 registrations saw record numbers, including the solo entry numbers increasing by 16% from 2014 (and 38% from 2013). This has confirmed our need to respond to the oversubscription issue.
We have consulted with all key stakeholders and believe we can implement a number of changes that will satisfy members and the broader swimming community, authorities and other key stakeholders, while maintaining a strong focus on safety (and preserve the integrity of the event).
The RCSA proposes the following changes to the annual event be made from 2016:
- Sunday morning event for elite swimmers: A second, separate, event will take place on the Sunday morning after the main Saturday event. This will be for elite solos, duos and teams. Entrants must be invited to participate in this event or qualify. Strict cut-off times will apply. Although the number of entries will be limited, we anticipate most swimmers would have otherwise entered the Saturday swim. For those remaining on the island for Sunday, they will enjoy the experience of seeing the best swimmers finish their race.
- Capping solos: Having an unknown (and unlimited) number of solo entries is a major financial and logistical concern for the RCSA. A combination of sponsorship, and duo/team registration fees largely funds the association and the event. Further, the higher the number of solo entries there are, the fewer places are available for duo and team entries. We balloted out 27% of swimmers for 2014 and 25% for 2015 (despite increasing boat numbers by 60). We understand and appreciate the event’s heritage in that it began as a solo event. However, we need to find the right balance of solos, duos and teams, taking into consideration financial realities and the event’s history. A self imposed condition of capping the number of solo entries is to offer an alternative, below.
- Offering a solo-only event in March: The RCSA will provide the basic infrastructure for a solo-only event in March. It will be similar to a ‘non-event’ solo crossing in that swims will be self-timed, however we will provide resources such as dedicated rescue boats. Should the solo category for the main Saturday event be oversubscribed, those people will be offered a place in this swim.
The next step for us is to develop a high-level operational plan and we will keep you updated with any developments.