Independent swims are typically much smaller. They will also have a Lead Pilot who is responsible for the overall success of the swim. In the case of a single swimmer, the lead pilot may be the only pilot. In swims of up to 15 swimmers, there may be a variety of craft participating.
Unlike the large organized swims, it is unlikely an independent swim will be establishing an area of the bay as our ‘zone’ or territory. Kayaks and rowboats should stay close to swimmers so as to give other vessels a visual cue to the location of swimmers.
Individual Swimmer Piloting
On an independent swim, kayakers and rowers should be piloting just one swimmer. You should discuss the swim with your individual swimmer on dry land before the swim. Ask them how they would like to be piloted. Some swimmers prefer you to lead them, some prefer you to be alongside them on their breathing side, and some may prefer you to stay behind them.
If you want the swimmer to adjust course in the direction towards you, you pull away some and the swimmer will have to close the gap, thereby changing course. Likewise, if you want to adjust their trajectory in the direction away from you, you close the gap between you and they will have to change course to reestablish the proper distance. Obviously, this method and hand signals should be agreed upon in advance.
On longer swims they will likely want to feed, so chat with them about how often or where they would like to do that. You should establish a method of communicating course corrections or ways you would like to ‘steer’ them.
Piloting individual swimmers with motorized craft
In smaller swims motorized pilots may be piloting individual swimmers. In these cases, they should keep downwind of the swimmers for two important reasons.
- Swimmers will not have to breathe exhaust fumes.
- It avoids the risk of the boat being blown onto a swimmer.