The World Swimming Majors is a new online virtual competition that uses a cumulative point system to calculate a global ranking of marathon swimmers for each calendar year.
Swimmers can upload their swims and times into the World Swimming Majors database to determine their relative standing in the marathon swimming world by age, gender and swim. That is, marathon swimmers around the world can subjectively rank themselves with others of the same age based on a variety of parameters.
The World Swimming Majors ranking system takes into consideration the following in a subjective weighted system:
• the swimmer’s age
• the distance of the swim
• the water temperature
• the official time of each marathon swim
The database appropriately weighs some factors, but admittedly does not take into account every dynamic element that makes each marathon swim unique.
The World Swimming Majors database and ranking system is an unprecedented online opportunity that creates an exciting and challenging ranking system that (1) compares athletes of all ages and genders across the world, (2) celebrates marathon swimmers of all backgrounds and abilities, and (3) promotes the sport of marathon swimming.
The initial idea for the annual competition was influenced by running’s World Marathon Majors, an annual point competition that includes the Boston Marathon, London Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathon.
Along the same lines, theWorld Swimming Majors was created to advance the sport of marathon swimming, raise public and media awareness of its athletes and increase the level of interest in marathon swimming among the aquatic and endurance athletic communities.
As all open water swimmers know, swimmers face many more weather and water variables than marathon runners which makes ranking marathon swimmers much more difficult.
While marathon runs are standardized at 42K (26 miles), marathon swims are defined as anything over 6.2 miles (10K) in any body of water that can include oceans, lakes, rivers, bays, rowing basins, canals, channels, fjords, lagoons, reservoirs and estuaries. Currents, tidal flows, fluctuating air and water temperatures, marine life, ocean swells, wind speed and direction, and swimming at night all have a potential effect on the time and the potential success of marathon swims.
The World Swimming Majors online calculator determines a swimmer’s ranking by weighing and compensating for significant differences between marathon swims.
Each swimmer receives more points for doing a faster swim, but only relative to each particular swim. So an English Channel swim in 10 hours generates more points than an English Channel swim in 15 hours, but a Strait of Gibraltar crossing in 10 hours does not generate the same amount of points as in an English Channel swim in 10 hours. Also, adjustments for age, water temperature and currents (e.g. in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim or Round Jersey Swim) are weighted in the calculations. It is important to note that the World Swimming Majors calculator does not attempt to take into account the following:
• myriad water conditions
• wind speed
• wave height
• number of competitors
• appearance of marine life
• conditions change during the course of marathon swims, even within each day and hour, and
• inaccurate, inconsistent or unavailable data make objective comparisons impossible.
• conditions change from swim to swim even on the same course
• some factors in open water swimming are difficult to quantify (e.g., the appearance of a shark or the sting of a Portuguese Man-o-War or swimming at night or swimming against a tidal flow for 1 or 2 or 3 hours).
As a result, the World Swimming Majors system is not be perfect and is purposefully introduced to the global marathon swimming community for discourse and debate.
Swimmers can enter this online ranking system starting next week.
Swimmers with the most points (i.e., highest ranking) at the end of the year will be officially announced on December 31st of each year by age and gender.
Additionally, swimmers may submit their highest point totals for five total swims in the World Swimming Majors Hall of Fame designation. This tabulation will rank any swimmer with five World Swimming Majors swims in their career. Swimmer can replace any swim within their top five swims if they complete a swim that generates more points. Therefore, swimmers can increase their cumulative point total in the World Swimming Majors Hall of Fame after each successful swim.
The World Swimming Majors include many of the greatest marathon swims in the world. The swims are geographically distributed around the world and present a variety of challenges to the marathon swimmer – from jellyfish and sharks to tidal flows and cold water… and of course, distance (in statute miles or kilometers).
The World Swimming Majors include the following swims:
1. Cadiz Freedom Swim, Cape Town, South Africa (7.5K or 4.7 miles)
2. Catalina Channel, California, U.S.A. (34K or 21 miles)
3. Clean Half Marathon Swim, Hong Kong (15K or 9.3 miles)
4. Cook Strait, New Zealand (26K or 16.2 miles)
5. Ederle Swim, New York-to-New Jersey, U.S.A. (28.2K or 17.5 miles)
6. English Channel, England-to-France (34K or 21 miles)
7. Jarak-Sabac Marathon Swim, Serbia (18.7K or 11.6 miles)
8. Faros Marathon Swim, Croatia (16K or 9.9 miles)
9. Ijsselmeerzwemmarathon, Netherlands (21K or 13 miles)
10. International Self-Transcendence Marathon Swim, Lake Zurich, Switzerland (26.4K or 16.4 miles)
11. Isle of Jersey Circumnavigation, Jersey (70K or 43.5 miles)
12. Jersey-to-France (29K or 18 miles)
13. Kalamata-Koroni Marathon, Messiniakos Gulf, Greece (30K/16.5 miles)
14. Lake Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto (minimum 50K or 31-mile course)
15. Lake Tahoe, California lengthwise (35.4K or 22 miles)
16. Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, New York, U.S.A. (45.9K or 28.5 miles)
17. Maui Channel, Hawaii, U.S.A. (15.3K or 9.5 miles)
18. Molokai Channel, Hawaii, U.S.A. (41.8K or 26 miles)
19. North (Irish) Channel, Ireland-Scotland (30K or 18.6 miles)
20. Pennock Island Challenge, Alaska, U.S.A. (13.2K or 8.2 miles)
21. Rottnest Channel Swim, Perth, Australia (19.7K or 12.2 miles)
22. Santa Barbara Channel, California, U.S.A. (minimum 30K or 19-mile course)
23. Strait of Gibraltar, Spain-Morocco (minimum 18.5K or 11.5-mile course)
24. Swim Across The Sound, Connecticut, U.S.A. (25K or 15.5 miles)
25. Swim Around Key West, Florida, U.S.A. (20.1K or 12.5 miles)
26. Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, Florida, U.S.A. (38.6K or 24 miles)
27. Traversee Internationale du lac St-Jean, Quebec, Canada (32K or 20 miles)
28. Tsugaru Channel, Japan (20K/12.4 miles)
29. World 25K Championships (site determined each year) (25K/15.5 miles)
30. Boston Light Swim, Boston, U.S.A. (12.8K or 8 miles)
All swims must be done without a wetsuit and based on the traditional rules of the marathon swimming world (i.e., no touching individuals or objects, clearing the water of one’s own ability) unless there are some local differences (e.g., use of pace swimmers).
Historical swims (i.e., swims done in past) are acceptable and can be inputted based on generally accepted documented proof. This way, the global open water swimming community can see how greats from the past (e.g., Lynne Cox, Penny Dean, Paul Asmuth, Philip Rush, Claudio Plit, Abo-Heif) would rank if they all swam in the current era.
The World Swimming Majors Committee will add additional marathon swims over time. The World Swimming Majors Committee solicits input and opinions from members of the global open water swimming community after the ranking system is formally announced in November.
Copyright © 2010 by Steven Munatones