The best young open-water swimmers B.C. has to offer will be churning up the waters near Canoe Beach for the Swim BC Open Water Provincial Swimming Championships on Monday, July 10.
Swimmers will race in one-, two-and-a half- and five-kilometre events.
Forty swimmers are currently registered, including nine from the Columbia-Shuswap Selkirks.
“They’re looking really good at the moment. We’re going back into the lake maybe tomorrow or the day after,” said Selkirks head coach Barry Healey when he spoke with the Observer on July 3.
Several Selkirks are accomplished open-water swimmers, including Chantel Jeffrey who represented Canada in international competition in the Cayman Islands in June.
Due to high water and closed beaches, the team hasn’t had an opportunity to train in the lake together as of July third, but Healey said some of the swimmers had taken to the lake on their own time.
The course swimmers will race in stretches from the start line near the Canoe Beach boat launch, to halfway points near the western edge of the dog beach for the one- and two kilometre races, and near the Canoe wharf for the five kilometre.
Swimmers in the 2-km race will swim the 1-km loop twice.
According to Event Director Scott McKee, safety measures for swimmers include six-foot-tall yellow buoys marking the course and support paddlers to offer assistance to struggling swimmers and ensure they keep to the course. The RCMP and Shuswap Search and Rescue boats will also be near the course unless they are called away McKee said.
McKee said the current 5-km course may be altered to avoid confusion about the route which could be caused by the boat anchoring buoys near the Canoe wharf.
Swimmers will receive a safety briefing the morning of the race to ensure they are well acquainted with the course.
The public boat launch at Canoe Beach will not be closed for the race and McKee says the course is close enough to shore that he does not think it will interfere with regular boat traffic.
With a week to go until race day, McKee says preparations for the race are on track and the community has been helpful with raising funds and volunteers.
“People have been interested in open-water swimming as a novel, new activity for Salmon Arm,” McKee said.
The course that McKee and his fellow race organizers have chosen is close enough to the beach that spectators on land should have a good view of the action, particularly the one and 2-km races.
“There’s been a push in open water swimming to make the sport more accessible and more understandable as a spectator sport,” he said.
Healey said the course’s proximity to the beach is good for coaches as well spectators. The coaches will be able to shout encouragement and other information to their swimmers from the beach and monitor their progress for almost the entire race; this is not the case for most open-water races.
Communication with swimmers is important because the long-distance open-water events are more about strategy than an all-out sprint in the pool.
“It’s about not going out too fast but being in with the leading pack,” Healey said.
He expressed the importance for swimmers of deciding when to make a move for the lead towards the end of the race.
McKee says Swim BC is happy with the course and the other preparations Salmon Arm has made.
“They really like that we can offer a large inland lake that has still, warm water. Shuswap Lake has a lot going for it as a venue for these kinds of races,” he said.
Healey agreed the location of the course would provide good conditions for open-water racing.
“The beach is ideal – It’s not very deep so the water is going to be fairly warm. I think it will be 20 or 21 degrees,” he said.
On race day, 11 and 12 year-old swimmers will take on the 1-km course, 13 and 14 year olds will swim 2-km course and swimmers 15 and older will swim the grueling 5-km route.
The first heat of racers in the 1-km race will start at 9:30 a.m. and the last heat of 5-km racers will be in the water by 10:03 McKee said.
No Selkirks are entered into the one kilometre event, but the club will be represented in both the 2-km and 5-km races.
Salmon Arm hosting the open water provincials offers a unique opportunity for the Selkirks swimmers who usually have to travel to compete. Healey said this will be opportunity for friends, grandparents and others to come see them swim and watch all their hard work pay off.