Rules on Catalina tandem swimming

Correcting a bit of misinformation from the comments section of a recent post…

Tandem swimming isĀ allowed on Catalina swims, so long as each member of the tandem is sanctioned by CCSF. This is from a CCSF official:

The CCSF recognizes a difference between a SANCTIONED swimmer and a COMPANION swimmer. Sanctioned tandem swims are allowed.

What’s at issue is the COMPANION swimmer, who typically knows the swimmer but has no relationship with the CCSF (eg application, swim history, insurance). For safety purposes, the CCSF wishes to limit that swimmer’s time in the water to a maximum of 3 hours in shifts no longer than 60-minutes. That’s more in accordance with English Channel standards. Different than Dover, a CCSF swimmer could– if they so desired– recruit 5 companion swimmers. Technically, they could rotate 1-hour legs for a 15-hour crossing (5x 3-hours). I have also pondered having a tandem event from the same boat: One solo swimmer going side-by-side with a 6-person relay. Though, it would take some serious synchronized swimming to make that feasible….

The SBCSA also allows for tandem swimming (with each swimmer being sanctioned), but has not yet followed CCSF in adopting a 3-hour limit on pace swimmers.

11 thoughts on “Rules on Catalina tandem swimming”

  1. So does that mean if one pays for a pilot and files the correct application and fees, there is nothing stopping a second swimmer from filing an application and fee and joining the other swimmer for the whole swim?

    Can one channel observer confirm and sanction two swimmers simultaneously?
    I assume the boat is the most expensive cost for Catalina – why don’t more similarly paced swimmer share the cost and go tandem?

    1. To your first question, I think the answer is yes.

      I would think a tandem swim would at least require two sanction fees, and perhaps even two observers. But I’m not sure about that.

      Sharing the boat cost is one nice feature of a tandem swim. The reason it’s not more common, I think, is that it’s not a trivial commitment to swim alongside another person (without falling behind or speeding ahead) for 20 miles. The two swimmers need to be (1) similar in speed, (2) similar in endurance, (3) similar in pacing strategy, and (4) have a similar performance level on the day of the swim. They should know each other’s swimming intimately.

      My guess is the people most capable of pulling this off would be training partners who are both pretty fast. Slower swimmers would probably have more variability in their speed, thus more likely to throw off the tandem. Jim Barber and Victoria Rian are the most recent tandem I can remember for Catalina – they’re training partners and both very fast.

      1. At the same time that Jim and Victoria did theirs, three swimmers from Colorado were also in the water together- Jeff Magouirk, Katie Raymond (now Benoit), and Cliff Crozier. (I think the CCSF having people in the water, who successfully completed the swim in one night was a record for them.) The three of them swam together for the entire distance.

        They each had their own CCSF observer and shared the costs of the boat fees. As I understand it, they are the only trio to ever accomplish this feat. They had plans to attempt a “triple double” this summer, but both Katie and Jeff had personal circumstances that prevented them from training for a double Catalina crossing, which is why you ended up with Cliff doing a solo. I have a suspicion they might try again in a couple of years (Katie is attemping the English Channel next summer), when things open up for them.

        What also made their feat amazing was that they are not training partners. Katie lives in Colorado Spings, Cliff lives in Denver, and Jeff in northern Denver. They managed to pace together for just over 10.5 hours after only training together for a handful of times. It really takes discipline and understanding to match pace with two other people for that long. I know I couldn’t do it!

        1. Thank you, Sarah, for this comment. Now that you remind me, Cliff did tell me about the triple-tandem. Jim and Victoria came more readily to mind because we were fellow Midwesterners at the time, so I was familiar with them. That’s a pretty incredible feat given they had hardly swum together.

    1. Yes. The issue under discussion was how the NEW rule for pace swimming (3 hours total, no more than 1 hour at a time) affects tandem swimming, going forward.

  2. So there’ve been two triples!? Cool. It would be great to have even a single training partner to do that with, let alone two!

  3. My boyfriend and I are attempting a tandem crossing in August. We train together and live together. We are both paced very differently – Michael is fast over 10km, while I am still warming up, 15+km is when I come into my own.
    This is going to be our biggest challenge.

    For us, coming from Australia and our falling dollar means we can’t afford to not share a boat.

    I think as long as Michael stays at my pace for the first half, he will be able to keep up with me for the rest.

    Im so looking forward to it!

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