Sight More, Swim Less!
No matter where you swim, the importance of sighting seamlessly and swimming straight cannot be overstated. The image below is a view of Walden Pond.* The triangular figure is our 1500-meter Olympic-distance practice course. Unfortunately, that line is not painted on the bottom of the pond, so we have to sight objects at each of the three corners. The red line is a GPS track from a Garmin 305 in the cap of the lead swimmer for a group swim.
The guy with the GPS had a pretty fast swim. But on this .9-mile course he swam 1.03 miles - about 185 yards extra. The rest of the group pretty much followed this guy - if they had done their own sighting, many of them might have beaten the "fastest" swimmer in the group.
This is about the average extra distance we see people swimming on this course before they start sighting more frequently.
Actually it could have been worse. Here's how I have people to do this route: Sight like you do normally for the first two legs (going clockwise starting from beach at the red balloon on the upper right), and then on the last leg (the top line going left to right), sight every sixth stroke, which is much more frequently than most people sight. You can see how much closer to the straight-line route the swimmer was on the final leg.
So, sight often, sight seamlessly, and make many small adjustments. Don't just follow the fast guy! He might be adding 185 yards to your route!
One more thing. Learn to sight seamlessly at the pool. You will not regret it.
* Yes, we swim at the Walden Pond, in Concord Massachusetts, where Henry David Thoreau went "..to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life." We go there for pretty much the same reasons.
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