Vazon 2017

Since it’s inception the Vazon event has been billed the Vazon Surf Triathlon, the word ‘surf’ was perhaps unfortunately missed out on this year’s website and FB page posts. It was well known in the week prior to the event that there was forecast of good surf conditions at Vazon on the morning of the event. Comments were made on the group Facebook page in particular to this effect. 

 

This event was fully Risk Assessed in advance as required, the R.A. document was reviewed and signed off by the Club Safety Officer. 

 

On the morning of the event sea conditions were again reviewed, it was clear this would be a challenging swim for some competitors. The Race Organiser, an LBG Director, the Water Cover lead present and Club Safety Officer ALL agreed that the event could go ahead, it was appreciated that the conditions would be challenging and alternatives including individuals NOT swimming was clearly included in the race briefing. A number of would be competitors decided variously not to swim, not to stay at Vazon, or not to even attend knowing what the conditions would likely be. 

 

The fact the decision to race was communicated by the event organiser does not indicate that this was a sole decision. 

 

There were issues in placing out swim turn buoys on the morning, this was eventually abandoned and the decision made to use a competent kayaker as a turn marker, just beyond the surf break. This did not remove that kayak from it’s prime role of water safety to swimmers. Water Cover numbers were within the required ratio of water craft to swimmers. 

 

At race brief competitors were given the warning that they could opt out of the swim. A number of individuals started the swim, only to decide fairly quickly that conditions placed them well outside their comfort zone, they then turned back to the beach and exited the water. 

 

At all times when individuals felt they needed help or assistance it appears that safety cover and reassurance was at hand, often within seconds. It is clear that shore based spectators were concerned for swimmers safety, the fact is that every swimmer who entered the water also exited, most having completed the swim course, albeit many were still put beyond their comfort zone. 

 

Organisers acknowledge that conditions had worsened between making the decision to allow the event to start as planned, one factor being the rising tide on the day. It is also acknowledged that given the benefit of hindsight the decision made on the day may not be the same decision made in similar conditions in the future, however that decision was made within our guidelines and with the safety of competitors and water cover personnel at the forefront. 

 

 

Recommendations

 

Among the recommendations being taken forward by the committee and directors are;

 

  • Swim maps to be published in advance of events, including swim entry and exit points. Where possible swim markers to be placed out at low water the previous afternoon. 
  • Water Cover personnel to sign in, in the same way that competitors are expected to sign in, and where their ability to safely offer assistance to competitors is in question they may be asked not to participate in that particular event.
  • Where swim conditions are ‘marginal’ but an event is deemed safe for the majority competitors will effectively be asked to ‘Opt in’ to the swim section prior to entering the beach / launch area. 
  • Competitors with their own timing chip (mostly club members) MUST ensure they sign in prior to commencing an event. 
  • Moving an event to another location at short notice (i.e., on the day) cannot happen owing to the necessity to risk assess and sign off each course in advance. 
  • Competitors MUST attend and actively listen to race briefings. 
  • Some swims may be made wetsuit compulsory for safety reasons, even where mean sea temperature exceeds BTF recommended minimum temperature, the buoyancy provided being an additional safety factor. 
  • The use of dark coloured swim caps will be banned for safety and visibility reasons. 

 

 

Conclusion 

 

The club is satisfied that its own procedures were followed at Vazon 2017 and that the process used to determine that the event should go ahead was made with the best of intentions, it is acknowledged that some were put out of their comfort zone, that is the nature of many sports including our own. It is hoped that this event will be seen as a one off in the club’s 30 year history. 

 

The club and it’s officials are not averse to postponing, cancelling or amending the nature of it’s events to keep members and guests safe. 

 

It is hoped that this review will further safety within the swim section of club events. 

 

 

The Guernsey Triathlon Club LBG welcomes comment from members and other interested parties made in the best interest of the sport and thanks those who have made constructive comment via Email, Orally, Personal Message and Social Media following the Vazon event. The club is run by volunteers who give their time freely, we welcome any additional volunteers, particularly in the area of Water Cover and its coordination going forward. 

 

 

Kind Regards

 

Mark Naftel

President / Chairman - Guernsey Triathlon LBG

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