Last Saturday, Jian Yang and I set a new open-water distance record for ourselves – we swam a crazy 3.5km in the waters off Changi Beach during the “Singapore Swim Stars Open Water Sunset Race”. Watch the video above and continue reading below to find out more about our experience!
Both of us registered for the ‘team challenge’ with two of our HCI friends, Hanwei and Jarrett. It was also their first (and hopefully not their last) open water race. Considering Hanwei’s massive build and Jarrett’s dolphin-like adeptness in aquatic conditions, our team was no doubt gunning for a podium position. Each team member had to swim 3.5km individually and the timings were then averaged to derive each team’s timing. Long story short, we won!
The race was held in the waters off NSRCC Sea Sports Centre @ Changi. As far as I am aware, it is not accessible by public transport, so it’s one of those places which you have to use a highly “unfashionable” mode of transport to reach (according to a certain Singapore MP, “it is becoming very fashionable not to drive so much, maybe not to even own a car, and to take public transport more”).
We arrived over an hour ahead of flag-off as we had to sort out administrative stuff like tattooing our race bib numbers on our arms, and also attending a safety briefing. As we took part in the same event last year (albeit a slightly shorter 3.0km version), everything felt pretty familiar to us. Like last year, there were only a few Singaporeans around – most participants were local expats or foreigners who flew in just for the race.
Hopefully, more Singaporeans would be willing to join future open-water events like this!
The event uses a “deep-water start”, so it’s not like a typical triathlon/biathlon where a few hundred people would dash down the beach at the same time. Nevertheless, it’s still advisable to move up front to avoid being stuck in a huge mess when the starting horn goes off. A photo would describe the situation better.
First-timers may be intimidated when they encounter many splashes and kicks from multiple directions. Thankfully, the crowd gets spaced out within a few minutes.
As you can see, the 3.5km course is marked out by 6 buoys. The buoys are painted bright orange and are over 2-metres high, which means that they should be really visible to swimmers – except that they were not.
As we made a right turn at buoy number 4, we found ourselves facing the direct evening sun. The blinding light coupled with the wave action made it pretty much impossible to sight buoy number 5. Another problem was that the water temperature changed drastically at various stages, which caused our goggles to fog up very badly. Foggy goggles, bright sun, and huge waves; well, let’s just say it was the perfect recipe to end up in Indonesia. Every now and then, we flipped over and lay on our backs like otters to clean our goggles and take a breather, and then try to locate the next buoy.
Thankfully, there were a couple of swimmers in front who were still visible and I tried to keep them in sight. Of course, I was making a highly risky assumption that they knew where they were going. Jian Yang faced the same problem – he said he even stopped to allow others to take the lead because he couldn’t see. But when he did so, all the other swimmers stopped because they were following him! Perfect example of blind leading the blind.
Amidst the navigational exercise, we all separately discovered a highly ingenious solution to solve this problem (ok maybe not, but just hear us out). So we stopped, washed our goggles, and squinted at the horizon until we were just able to make out buoy 5; then we compared it against the bearing of the sun and memorised the offset angle. AND THEN WE NAVIGATED USING THE SUN! Smart right? Here comes the cheesy bit – the sun became our North Star that guided us that evening. Essentially, we spent the evening chasing the sun, and finished the race!
During the prize presentation, we discovered that Han Wei won individual third, and our combined timings made us the fastest team that evening. We were presented with $200 of Speedo Vouchers and a nice plaque!
Han Wei: 1hr 9mins
Jarrett: 1hr 13mins
Yip: 1hr 16 mins
Bert: 1hr 24mins
We’ve already agreed to do this again next year and defend our title!
And so this marks the first segment of our #RoadtoIronman journey, and we can’t wait to embark on our next milestone. I guess we better earn some money and get ourselves a decent road bike for the upcoming events. Till then~