In a world's first for open water swimming, the team of Doug Woodring, Doug Woo, Eric Helfer, Jeff Fiola, Philip Sohmen won The Clean Half marathon relay in Hong Kong today USING AN OUTRIGGER CANOE instead of an escort boat.
The Maui Channel Swim. The Trans Tahoe Relay. The Fiji Swims. English Channel relays. The global open water swimming community knows about these great relays where teams of 5-6 swimmers rotate in legs of 10-30 minutes. When they are not swimming, they are relaxing in the escort boat, cheering on their teammates, plotting the course with the pilot, eating and hydrating. But for few special teams entered in The Clean Half, there was no rest for the weary.
Under beautiful blue skies, but strong easterly winds and enormous swells, 22 five-person teams competed in the 14.5K relay around Hong Kong Island. But two teams did something special: they completed the swim in a "carbon neutral" manner. Instead of using a traditional motorized escort boat, the two teams used an outrigger canoe which required them to constantly paddle instead of relaxing on the deck of an escort boat. The swimmer-paddlers each swam for 20 minutes for the first rotation, jumped in the outrigger to paddle for their teammates and then continued with 10-minute rotations until the race finished.
Despite almost huli-ed their outrigger (i.e., flipped it), the team of Woodring, Woo, Helfer, Fiola and Sohmen won with a course record time of 3:22.35.
The Clean Half also had enabled solo swimmers to compete with the relay teams. The solo winner, Callum McKinlay, took third overall in a time of 3:34.01
Photos of the two outrigger teams and course map provided by race director Douglas Woodring.