Last Ocean race before the winter: Albany harbour swim

A view of the harbour at 6am, from the finish line

They convinced me. It was not on my diary, it was not in my plans. They convinced me to sign up for the Albany harbour swim one month before the event. I didn’t think of adding Albany to my open water swimming race list because it’s far, I have to drive for five hours, I need to book a motel, the race is on Easter Saturday, the weather is usually bad and the water cold and choppy. But it is also usually one of the last event on the calendar, and then no more ocean races until October: eventually I decided to make the Albany harbour swim an excuse to go down south and wrap up my season.
Albany is a city with natural harbours. The 4k course of the race is a straight line cutting across Princess harbour, from the Albany yacht sailing club to the Anzac peace park, just next to the Entertainment Centre. The weather down south is cooler than Perth, visibility can be greatly reduced in the morning and sometimes the wind can be an issue. Since the race crosses the harbour, participants need a bit of logistic organisation to get their bags on the other side or to be taken back to the start to their cars. I was lucky that my wife was with me, and with some extra help from friends of my masters swimming club everything was sorted out.

The course map

I went down south on Good Friday, checked in at the motel in the early afternoon and then went to have a look at the start and the arrival locations. In books on open water swimming it is often written that talking with locals to get knowing some of the characteristics of the race field is important. At the yacht club I met one of the organisers who gave me plenty of useful information on currents, wind directions, water temperatures in the harbour and some other tips for the race. Really useful, I completely subscribe to the “talk to locals” suggestion. I also had a look around the Anzac peace park and then headed to Middleton beach for a quick swim, just to loosen up muscles after the 5 hour drive.

This was my second trip down south to Albany for a swimming race. This time I decided to be prepared and pack my own food for the two days. For a 24 hours carb up I had with me seven bananas, two bars of chocolate, and a small bag of rolled oat. I also made in advance a banana bread and a brownie, and I packed all of the former and half of the latter already portioned in single slices. A can of mackerel and one of kippers provided enough protein. I don’t like canned food and I usually don’t eat it, but you can have it in a motel room or in a car and it doesn’t need to be cooked. Before we were back everything was gone, except one banana. I already talked about the brownie breakfast in the post about the Coogee Jetty to Jetty, and I confirm: a slice of brownie (and one of banana bread) three hours before the race seems to work great for me.

The harbour seen from the yacht club, a few moments before the start

If you exclude that I couldn’t really swim straight passed the first 1 k, there are not exciting things to report about the race itself. I lead from the first few strokes to the end and I finished the 4k first in 49’26”, which is not bad I think. However wind was southeasterly and we were swimming south to north, so the waves helped a lot. Sometimes I was even feeling like surfing, but I realized later that I was being pushed east because I kept on the left the yacht marking the 1st km but I could barely see far on my right those of the 2nd and 3rd km. I should have realized that swells and the rising tide were pushing me off course before a boat from the rescue service approached me indicating to go more west. I probably ended swimming more than 4k, but since I won the race it is still ok. I must just be smarter the next time. The water was a bit cold, around 18~19 degrees, but nothing you cannot stand for 4k. I put on some wool fat on my upper body (because I didn’t want to mess up with my race jammers) and I really felt some difference at the beginning, but thanks to the jammers I felt the legs warmer anyway. Once the race was finished, I managed to resolve shivering and some cramps with a hot shower.

My wife and I decided to stay down south just for one night, but we couldn’t go back without a proper lunch. And by “proper” I mean that half of the cash prize that I got for the swim was spent for the lunch at a marron farm in Denmark. It was also a way to thank my wife who follows me in all my races, she is fantastic.

Self reward for the victory: a marron plate

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