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Kayaker Instructions

We are asking every yacker and swimmer to read these instructions as they prepare for Kingdom Swim.  The first part contains some basic information.  The second part includes what we hope are helpful tips about guiding and supporting your swimmer.

What to Bring:

  1. Fuel and Drink for your swimmer (will be provided by your swimmer)
  2. Fuel and Drink for yourself (will be provided by you)
  3. A watch (so you can time the feedings)
  4. A PFD for yourself.
  5. An extra PFD for your swimmer in case he or she needs assistance.
  6. A cell phone with plastic bag to protect it.
  7. A red bandana or other “flag” to signal for assistance.
  8. A whistle or air horn or other audible means to signal for assistance
  9. Plenty of sunscreen
  10. Dress in layers (temperatures will change during the day)
  11. A hat and rain gear
  12. A cup for bailing and peeing

The Most Important Safety Rule:  
If your swimmer is in distress you are not allowed to try to rescue them from the kayak or dive into the water yourself.  That is the most dangerous thing you can do.  You are to toss the swimmer a PFD for his or her use and signal for help from a motorized patrol boat in as many ways as possible.  A flag, a whistle or horn, a cell phone call.  (We will provide the numbers on the day of the event)
If you have concerns about your swimmer’s condition, you can also ask for assistance from the Patrol Boats so that an evaluation can be undertaken by trained safety personnel.

Pasta Dinner Friday Evening
Swimmers who will be using volunteer kayakers are strongly urged to attend the Swimmers and Yackers Pasta Dinner Friday night so that you can meet and discuss the feeding routine and paddling strategies for the swim itself.  We are requiring each of our volunteer kayakers to attend the dinner as well so that they can meet their swimmers.

Volunteer Kayaker/Swimmer Matchings
During the week of June 15th, we will also be sending out matchings of particular volunteers with their swimmers including e-mail addresses so that volunteer kayakers can communicate with their swimmers during the coming weeks.  We strongly recommend that swimmers and kayakers communicate regarding the swimmer's goals (to win or just to finish), swim strategy, their feeding plan / schedule, and anything else they need to know about the swimmer.

Saturday Morning
Sign in on Saturday opens at 6:30 am for the swimmers.  All 3, 6, 10 mile swimmers and their kayakers are required to be on the beach at 7:30 am to hear final instructions regarding the swims and to then deploy.
10 mile Yackers will depart the beach at 7:45 am so that they can be in the water and positioned by 7:55 am.  The 10 mile swimmers will start promptly at 8:00 am (it is a “ready or not” start)(false starters will be required to return to the line in the sand and restart themselves).
At 8:15 am the 6 mile Yackers will depart so that they can be in the water and positioned by 8:25 am.  The 6 milers will start at 8:30 am (again, ready or not)
At 8:45 am the 3 mile Yackers will depart the beach and deploy to receive their swimmers and the 3 milers will start at exactly 9:00 am
All Yackers will have a bib with their swimmer’s number which must be worn throughout the race.  They will line up single file in numerical order at least 10 feet apart behind a line between the starter buoy and Buoy 1.  When their swimmer approaches they will engage and join the swim.

Additional Info and Advice to Yackers and their Swimmers
This information and advice is primarily aimed at those of you who have never guided a swimmer before.  But I would invite even the more experienced Yackers (and swimmers) to spend a minute to review this.  YOU MIGHT JUST LEARN SOMETHING THAT WILL HELP.  We’re done talking about what to bring and when to start and all of that stuff.   This part is more of a “how to guide”, with some basic info and observations targeted primarily to those of you who haven’t done this before.

You are the navigator.  Spot the Buoy and stay the course.  Swimmers are stubborn Idiots who will take you into Canada if you let them.
One of your primary functions is to guide your swimmer.   We will give each of you a chart at sign in.  The courses are also on line.  Our buoys are visible but far apart.  When you turn on a buoy, turn sharp, spot the next buoy and stay the course.  You have the site on the buoy, they don’t.  You have eyes well above the water line, they don’t.  (Put another way, they are blind and stubborn, water logged idiots. You are a beacon of light and intelligence to guide them through the mist).  You should be close to your swimmer, 5 to 10 feet to their right or left.  Some swimmers like to be in the lead a little bit, some side by side, some want you in the lead.  That should be their decision.  Once you make that decision on placement, don’t let the swimmer push you off course.  Go slower or faster depending on swimming speed, but don’t let the swimmer push you to the right or left.  You paddle the straightest course you can at the swimmer’s swimming speed and let the swimmer keep the right distance from you.  You are their marker.   
Many swimmers tend to favor one side or the other and will tend to “lean” to the left or right and will wander off course if left to their own devices.  Biggest mistake Yackers make is to adjust to keep a certain distance from the swimmer.  As a result, many wandered wide on the long stretches, turning a 10 mile swim into a 12 mile swim.  My recommendation, if a swimmer tends to “lean” left, you should position yourself on the left side so they turn into you, not away from you.  Let them bump right into the kayak if that’s what it takes to keep them on course.  If they are drifting away from you, whack the water with your paddle (BE A BEAVER) and get their attention.    If your regular position is behind them, pull forward so that they can see you and get back to the right course.  Some swimmers simply don’t make the turn (like at Buoy 8).  I have even instructed kayakers to pull in front of wayward swimmers and herd them back on course, let them ram right into you.  You are not doing them any favors letting them swim straight into Canada or back to the Gateway Center when they should be turning.
There are subtle currents in the water, even though this is a lake.  And there is wind.  Once you sense a current or feel the wind, compensate for it by pointing your kayak to the right or left of the next buoy.  Swimming is only one part of an open water swim.  The rest is navigation.

Feed them and water them on a regular basis.  Once you set the time for the intervals, it is your responsibility to “interrupt” your swimmer who will be in the zone and tell them IT’S CHOW TIME!
Your next primary responsibility is to feed and water your swimmer on regular intervals, generally between 30 and 45 minutes.  Figure out with your swimmer what the schedule is and what exactly they want at each feeding.  You have the watch.  Keep track of the time.  Signal to your swimmer when to stop to feed.  They do not have a watch.  They will not know when to stop.  They will tend to want to keep on swimming until they are hungry.  By that point in time, IT MAY BE TOO LATE!  It is best to stay ahead of the hunger curve, especially in cold water.  Keep their nutrients up, so they don’t have a period of time when they are under nourished.  They can get cold, and cranky, and get CRAMPS. 
When you are planning the timing of the feedings before the race, the swimmer will set the time (my recommendation to swimmers is to plan feedings at shorter intervals in lesser amounts rather than to  space them out too much and creating the risk of falling behind the swimmer’s nutrition needs).  Then it is your job to keep them to the schedule.  Remember, swimmers are stubborn idiots who just want to swim and swim and swim.  You have the watch.  You have the schedule.  You are the pit crew.  You bring your swimmer into the pit for a feed stop.  That is your job.
If your swimmer is an experienced veteran of marathon swimming, they will adjust during the swim and you should obviously take their lead.  But, for some folks, this is their very first 10 mile swim.  For others, the lake temperatures may be different from what they have experienced before.  For them, you will need to take charge and keep track of the time.

Bring an extra PFD with you and an air horn, a whistle, a cell phone (in a plastic bag), and a bandana to waive
If you are renting a kayak, we will be providing you with a whistle and an extra PFD.  (We are also providing each patrol boat with an extra paddle in case your kayaker breaks theirs. You will not be expected to pull a swimmer out of the water.   That’s for the big boys and girls in their big boats.  You know, the fat and sassy ones smiling and laughing in the boats with the motors.  You will consult with your swimmer if they are experiencing problems, you will toss them a PFD to help them, and you will signal to the patrol boats.  They are not watching the swimmers.  They are watching you.  They are the ones who can pull the swimmer out of the water if needed, not you.   We will provide a number for you to call on your cell phone if you are not getting a quick response to your first signal for help.  Here it is: 
802-673-9702
We’ll be making up cards with this number for distribution at sign in.  But, we thought some of you would want it now.

Be sure to bring your own water and chow and layers, and hat and sun screen.
Remember you have to feed and water and take care of yourself too.  (Isn’t that the hardest part in life?)   First year of the swim, I forgot my own provisions and I was out on the water for seven hours, feeding off every other patrol boat I could find.  Good thing they were a lot smarter than me.  (And very generous with their gorp and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches)  I especially liked the Rickman Burgers cooked on the side of their “yacht.”

AND PEEING CUP,  bed pan, or some Depends or whatever it takes. 
OK, let’s talk about the dirty little issue – the secret burden that kayakers bear  –  peeing.   Guys have it made in the shade.  Bring a cup, pee when you want, and toss.  (The planet will survive this little gesture of IDGAS)  Gals have the harder time with this.  For some of you a cup works fine.  (I don’t know how you do it, but some of you do.)  Bed pans work.  And so do a few Depends.  You don’t have to wear the Depend throughout the entire race, just slip one on when you need it and then bring a solid plastic bag to stash it so you don’t have to smell it the rest of the way around the course.  Any questions about this aspect of THE MANUAL, ask your personal physician.  I just don’t want to know or need to know how you do it.  Back to the closet with this dirty little issue, is what I say.
If we have enough patrol boats deployed we will establish one or two spots where kayakers who need to exit the kayak to pee in the water can receive assistance getting in and out.  We don’t recommend this. But for some, it may be necessary during a 10 mile swim.
Bail out
Cove Island is just at the 6 mile point.  They are supporting the race by offering a bail out point.  If swimmers want to stop and rest, that’s fine with us.  If they do, they will be disqualified from receiving a time.  But what is time anyway?  (Not sure where this question might lead us, but it’s deep, I know that much).  This is a day to celebrate swimming.  We’re easy and flexible, and want you to have a great time.
In the event of a sudden emergency, like a sudden threat of lightening, central control will issue three long blasts and repeat them.  This means the swim has been called and all swimmers and their kayakers should get off the water as quickly as possible.  A few of you may be close enough to shore to just swim there.  However, we recommend most swimmers to cluster in groups of 5 to 10 so that Patrol Boats can quickly pick you up en masse and boat you to shore.  We have identified 5 bail out spots along the course for the patrol boats to use in evacuating swimmers from in the event of a sudden emergency. We hope we don’t have to use them, but we want to be prepared in the event of a sudden emergency.

That’s it for now.  Any questions, shoot me an e-mail pwhite@orleansrecreation.org