Relays in the pool and running relays are easy to understand. The pool swimmers can only dive in once their teammate has touched the wall. The runner proceed once they have exchanged a baton.

But what about swimming relays? What are the rules of exchanges (change-overs or takeovers) between swimmers on a relay?

Like many things in the open water world, there is no absolute standard around the world.

According to the Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation rules, “The change-over/takeover from one swimmer to the next in a relay should take place every 60 minutes with the new swimmer entering the water on a signal given by the observer. During the take-over the new swimmer must enter the water from behind & swim past the preceding swimmer. The previous swimmer must then exit the water as quickly as possible. The change-over should take no more than 5 minutes.”

According to the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation rules, “On receipt of a time signal, the changeover to the new swimmer will be made as soon as is practically possible (should be within one minute) after the previous swimmer has completed his/her respective leg, but under no circumstances more than five minutes after the end of the previous swimmer’s leg. In a takeover, the new swimmer must enter the water behind the preceding swimmer, and swim past him/her. The new swimmer must touch the preceding swimmer.”

So some governing bodies require a touch and some associations do not require a physical touch.

In the English Channel, we do not ban the swimmers from touching at change over time,” explains Nick Adams, president of the Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation. “We do insist that the next swimmer passes the current swimmer from behind, so as to avoid distance of the swim being reduced.”

This passing from behind makes perfect sense and enables confirmation that the entire distance is covered. While the Channel Swimming & Piloting Federation does not insist on a physical touch, Adams explains, “It is a nice thing to do, to make physical contact at the change over, as it’s a bonding gesture, and feels comforting as the swimmer.”

The Mexican American Unity Swim was a non-stop 108 nautical mile 6-person relay in Lake Powell, Arizona performed over a three-day period in 2010. The swimmers used green and red-colored lights on their swim caps when swimming at night. In the daytime and in the darkness of night the swimmers used the non-touch-take-over-from-behind approach in the lake near the Grand Canyon between their one-hour legs.





Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association