Author Archives: Luane Rowe

Sighting in Open Water Swimming

Sighting in open water swimming is one of the most imperative skills to master.  Effective sighting allows you to swim straight and swim the shortest distance possible around the course.

The most efficient way to sight is to ‘peek’ your eyes above the surface of the water. Lifting your head only slightly does not affect the position of your legs and hips therefore creating minimal drag. Sighting should be integrated into your swimming technique and should not affect the efficiency of your stroke. Lift your head and ‘peek’ your eyes over the surface of the water to sight the buoy, then turn your head to the side and breath. Continue to swim normally for a couple of stroke cycles and the sight again to make sure you remain in line with the buoy. It is important that the motion from sighting to breathing is a one smooth motion. The key is that you are constantly moving forward when sighting.

A common question about sighting is “How often should I sight?” Typically if you naturally swim straight you can sight every 6 to 12 strokes. If you have a little more trouble swimming straight I would recommend you sight every 3-4 strokes. Another element that effects how often you sight is the weather. If the water is calm with minimal glare you can sight less as the visibility will be greater and it will be easier to see the buoys. However if there are high winds and the water is choppy, the buoys are going to more difficult to see. Therefore you should sight more often to avoid going off course. The weather also effects how high you must lift your head to sight. Ideally you want to lift your head enough so that you ‘peek’ your eyes over the surface of the water. However in choppy conditions ‘peeking’ may not give you enough visibility. You may need to lift your head further out of the water to sight the buoys. The higher you lift your head the more you hips and your legs will drop. It is important that if you are lifting your head higher out of the water that you kick harder to counteract the drag from the hips and legs. Timing when you sight can also help the visibility in choppy conditions. Sighting in between the sets or at the peak of the swell can be used to your advantage as you are higher up and have more visibility.

A good exercise to practice sighting is to start in the pool. Swim with your eyes closed for 6-8 strokes then lift your head up so your eyes peek over the water to sight. This will help you to learn to swim straight without looking at the black line on the bottom of the pool. Overtime you should be able to increase the amount of strokes with your eyes closed and still swim in a straight line. Another exercise you can practice in the pool is to sight every 3-4 strokes. Focus on the motion from sighting to breathing, make sure it is one fluid none stop motion. Repeat this for 6×50 and feel yourself making the motion more fluid. You should notice that the more efficient your sighting is the faster the times will become. This exercise will also train and strengthen your muscles that you use to sight.

The next step is to practice sighting in the open water. Pick three points to practice sighting, these may be a tree, house or a buoy along the shoreline. Choose your first landmark that you will swim to, focus on the fluid motion from sighting to breathing. After 100 strokes, change direction to the second landmark etc.  It is important to also do this exercise in different conditions. Try sighting in salt water versus freshwater or choppy versus calm or glare versus clear. How did your sighting technique differ in each of the situations? The more practice you have sighting in these different conditions the more effectively and efficiently you will sight when it comes to race day.

-Luane Rowe

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Swimming the English Channel

 

People say that swimming the English Channel is the best and worst experience of your life. But you never understand the full extent of this statement until you are in the situation. My friend Shelley Clark (one of Australia’s greatest marathon swimmers) and I decided that we would swim the English Channel as a duo. We arrived in Dover on the 5th of August with our week window to swim starting on the 7th and going to the 12th of August.

On the day we arrived we called Michael Oram, our main correspondent and father to our Boat Captain Lance Oram. Michael told us that the weather was taking a turn for the worse and that we wouldn’t be able to attempt anything until mid-week. So we began the excruciating phone calls every night to see if there was going to be a break in the weather to allow us to swim. We continued training everyday doing laps in Dover Harbor and sometimes swimming in the local pool so that we had an idea of our pace. This was much to the local’s dismay, as apparently channel swimmers training in a pool is frowned upon.

We got to the end of the week and our spirits were dampened. It wasn’t looking good. We called Michael expecting the same talk as the previous six days, however this time we received a glint of hope as there was a twelve hour weather break. We were naturally happy but extremely cautious at the same time because we knew that British weather is extremely temperamental. Was this rollercoaster of a week finally going to result in us taking on the English Channel? Two hours later we received the confirmation call that we would be swimming on Friday the 12th of August, and we were to meet at the dock at 8 am. It was time!

We arrived at the dock with our supplies and massive smiles on our faces. This was it. No turning back. We were about to take on the English Channel. We left the harbor for the 30 minute journey to the starting beach.  Shelley dove into the water and proceeded to swim the 100m to the beach (for the start you must be clear of the water). The horn went off and Shelley dove into the water to begin the “Mount Everest” of swims.

We decided to swim in 1 hour time slots, this way we could keep our speed up and also not spend too much time on the boat as Shelley and I get very sea sick. We were swimming on a neap tide, this means that when the weather is bad it takes longer to settle.  With only a 12 hour break and another storm approaching, we were swimming into a massive head wind and the water was like a washing machine. It was going to be a slow swim.  It is no wonder that sometimes people wait 2 months in Dover and don’t even choose to swim. However we were very lucky as the water was a warm 64°F/17 °C and the sun was shining.

France was like an optical illusion it looked so close, but yet we were still 14km away. It was defiantly disheartening to feel like we weren’t making progress.  Just as we started to feel frustrated we had an unexpected surprise!  A group of about ten porpoises decided to join us for an hour; this provided some much needed distraction from the task ahead.

As the sun began to set we took our first steps up the beach on France. When I pictured this moment I defiantly thought it would be more emotional, but I think Shelley and I were just relieved to be land. Only having 6 minutes on France we frantically took photos and headed back to the boat.  We were thankful it was all over. However the worst part was the three hour journey back to Dover (Shelley and I were extremely sea sick all the way home). We arrived back in Dover at the dock both physically and mentally exhausted; we had joined a small elite group that had conquered the impossible.

Shelley and I would like to thank all of our friends and family for their support.  I would especially like to thank my mother Leslie, for all the support she gave us throughout the swim. We definitely could not have done it without you! A big thank you to FINIS for sponsoring our swim and all the support you gave us along the way.

Luane Rowe

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Swimming the English Channel

Tomorrow I will be leaving and heading to Dover, UK to tackle the infamous English Channel Swim in a Duo. I will take on the challenge with my good friend Shelley Clark, an Australian Marathon Swimmer. Our week window is from the 7th to the 12th of August, 2011. The English Channel is approximately 19 nautical miles from Shakespeare Beach, Dover to Cap Gris Nez, France.  The English Channel presents many challenges such as strong tides, cold water temperatures,  unpredictable weather and of course that the English Channel has over 600 commercial ship movements a day.

Follow me on twitter for updates:
http://twitter.com/#!/LuaneRowe

Here is the link to track the GPS on the boat:
http://www.ais-doverstraits.co.uk/

-Luane Rowe
Industrial Designer, Open Water Swimmer
FINIS, Inc.

About Luane:
Luane has won the Waikiki Rough Water swim three years in a row. Luane was also the 2009 Long and short course 1500m Freestyle Australian Open silver medalist. Coming to the US from Sydney Australia, Luane regularly competes in open water and ocean swim events worldwide.

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