Open Water Strategy: Go With the Flow!
Most often for a triathlon swim leg or open water swim race, the best route from buoy to buoy is a straight line. But in some cases - especially in the ocean - a little knowledge of currents on the course can gain you valuable minutes.
For example, consider the 1/3 mile point-to-point sprint course to the left. The straight red line looks like the logical route. Many newer swimmers, uncomfortable with being in the ocean hugged the shore. In fact the buoys on race day were placed closer to the shore, more in an arc than a straight line.
The elite men's and women's waves were clustered to the right side of the course at the beginning, and shot out to the right at the start, headed for the docks on the right side of the picture, and turned left toward the finish at the last m. Why? Because they probably looked at the big picture, checked the local tide chart, and realized that beginning at about race time, the dark channel visible on the aerial views would be draining over four feet of water from the area shown in the zoomed-out view below (thanks Google Earth!) below:
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