Swim PilotingClub Swims

Club Swims

The club hosts a dozen or so large group swims every year. Some of these swims have almost 100 swimmers. Strong pilot support makes them possible, and we aim to keep a 1:3 swimmer to pilot ratio. (1 pilot for 3 swimmers)

Club-organized events are generally scheduled for optimum current conditions for the swim. If the jump is to the West of Aquatic Park, there should be a flood, and an ebb if the jump is to the East.

Roles on a Club Swim

A smooth functioning swim comes together when everyone knows their role:

  • Chief Pilot, Boat Captain & Swim Commissioners
    These are official club roles approve and provide advice on the preparation of a swim. Once the swim is in progress, all defer to the leadership of the Lead Pilot. 
  • Lead Pilot
    The lead pilot is the person who is nominated to be responsible for the success of an individual swim. The Lead Pilot will co-ordinate with Vessel Traffic and oversee the structure and safety of the swim. On large swims, the Lead Pilot will typically be a passenger in a motorized vessel. The lead pilot has the final say on who can pilot, and who can swim on that particular swim.
  • Motorized Pilots
    Motorized pilots are typically experienced Dolphin pilots. Their increased visibility and maneuverability makes them well placed to manage parts of the swim (lead, sides, rear etc). Motorized craft will intercept vessels that threaten the swim. Typically a motorized vessel will cover the lead, another the rear, with two either side of the swim.
  • Whitehall & LiteBoat Escorts
    Whitehalls and LiteBoats are excellent boats for escorting swimmers. They are large enough to rescue swimmers in a pinch, and safe enough to stay close with swimmers. Liteboats have an open transom that makes repositioning swimmers easy. Typically these boats form a perimeter around swimmers.
  • SUP & Kayak Escorts
    Pilots of these craft can mix it up and get in close to support and observe swimmers. Great for checking on swimmers’ health. The kayak and SUP pilots have the ability to maneuver among the swimmers in a way the Whitehalls cannot and can provide assistance to swimmers that may be otherwise difficult to reach.

Kayakers and SUP escorts should take extra care to judge the sea-worthiness of their craft and/or appropriateness for the conditions. It is not only embarrassing, but an avoidable redirection of resources to require other pilots to rescue a pilot in distress. Common situations include: leaky kayaks and SUPers being blown downwind.

The Dolphin Club is a diverse coalition of personalities, many of whom have strong opinions about the best way to approach any particular challenge. Know your place in the hierarchy of the swim. Don’t be afraid to speak up when something is awry, but also be self-aware on when it’s appropriate to give others instruction vs suggestions vs keeping quiet.  

Preparing for the Swim

Swim Commissioners will post the signup sheets in the weeks in the lead up to a swim. All motorized, whitehall and kayak craft are reserved for swim support on the day of an official club swim. 

Many swims have very early sign-in times. Gather clothes, prepare to be wet and prepare for the wind.  Remember it’s easier to unzip than not have proper protection. 

Suggested equipment: watch, hat or visor (bright orange is very visible), radio, paddle leash, compass, sunglasses, croakies, snack, sunscreen.

When you arrive for the event:

  • Sign in at check in desk.
  • Sign out your boat.
  • Prepare your boat: Oscar flag, life jacket, paddle. Optional to take a second life jacket for rescues.
  • Attend the Pilot Briefing.  Understand the briefing & reasons for the instructions.
  • Get to start: Be aware that you might have to fight the current to get to the starting point. 

Boat Positioning 

Once the swim starts the pilots form a perimeter around the swimmers and establish that section of the bay as DC territory. 

Observer Vessels

  • SUPs & Body Boards (Note about suitability)
  • Kayaks
  • Specialty Rowing Craft (Vikings, Wieland, Shells)

The kayak and SUP pilots have the ability to maneuver among the swimmers in a way the Whitehalls cannot and can provide assistance to swimmers that may be otherwise difficult to reach.

Whitehalls & LiteBoats

These boats are well suited to maintaining the perimeter of the swim as well as observing swimmers. In a pinch, they can be used to reposition or pull a swimmer.  

Rescue / Interceptor Vessels

On larger swims, motorized pilots have the main responsibility of spotting and intercepting incoming traffic but will respond to swimmers in need of assistance when summoned by a non-motorized pilot.

  • AB’s (Stack, Moon, Spirit)
  • Larger RIB (Arias)

On a large group swim, all pilots should keep an eye on the distribution of the other pilots. All too often the front and the back of the swims sees too much coverage while the middle can be sparsely monitored. If you find yourself covering more swimmers than you think is safe, get on the radio and request assistance. 

Upon reaching the opening, it is important for pilots to check on the radio or with someone who has a radio to find out if they are needed further back in the swim. Entering the cove amongst a swarm of swimmers is not advised, it’s best to stay outside and let the main body of the swim clear the water before heading in.