Lies, damned lies, and the fos tallies

What a response there's been to our story in our last newsletter on the fine ocean swimmers tallies (if you haven't seen it... Click here ... and scroll down, too, to read the responses in Controversy Corner). Easily, one of the two strongest responses we've had to any issue in the lifetime of, which goes back to Xmas 1999.

We're mulling those responses now, and we will come up with a new way of managing the tallies in season 2015/16 so that they meet our original intent for the tallies and offer incentive to every single punter to swim, swim, swim.

Must get out more

In the meantime, the genius behind the compilation of the tallies, our staff propeller-head, Colin Reyburn, who clearly has not enough to do, has been fooling around with Excel again, and now he's come up with a set of tallies covering the last ten years.

Yes, you heard that right: how far have you swum in formal events over the last ten years? Who's swum the farthest? And perhaps more interesting, who's swum most often?

And the leader is...

jon hainesThe results may surprise you. The farthest distance, with 548.9km over ten years, is.... Jon Haines, a Wessna-Stra'an.

And who's swum most often...

Jenny StarkThis may surprise you, too... Jenny Starke, an Aucklander, who's swum in 225 events over that same period.


With Colin in the engine room running around the inside of the barrel, we've now published on lists of the most desperate ocean swimmers in Stra'a and New Zealand over the last ten years. There are two versions of each list: The leading 5,308, and the leading 1,000 (to make it easier to browse the real distance makers). (We're restricted to the top 5,308 by technical issues. Colin does have other commitments from time to time, such as earning a living, and those technical issues made it too time consuming, and fiddly, to go further at this stage. However, considering the Top 5,308 include, at 5,308, a swimmer who has done 11.3km over 10 years, we figure we're covering pretty well most of those who've swum regularly over that time.

With statistics, you can demonstrate and prove pretty well anything you like. For example, based on distance covered, the tallies lists last year's fine ocean swimmers' tallies "winner", Mike Cochrane, at 8th with 448.3km over 114 swims. But the vast majority of that total came in one season: last season (307.8km from 68 swims), and that because Mike, between jobs, set himself a goal of seeing how much he could tally if he did everything he could.

In contrast, at 9th, one spot after Mike, sits Sydney ferry deckie James "Tacoma Jim" Goins, with 444.47km over 149 swims. But Jim has hardly done a formal swim over the last three years. He's still swimming, turning out regularly but informally with the Frosty Nuts at Manly, but he doesn't often enter the formal events. Neither is more or less valid than the other, of course, but formal events give us the only reliable empirical measure available. We have no idea how far the Frosty Nuts swim each morning or over the course of a season. All we know is that what they get up to is extreme.

Further, while the list is dominated by swimmers from the West and from NZ, as well as from the usual suspects region of NSW, it's influenced by the preponderance of longer swims in the West, and the multiplicity of mid-week events in Auckland.

Haines has done his 548.9km from 157 events with an average 3.5km per event. In 2nd place, Richard Murray, from NSW, has done 534.8km from 176 evnts at 3km, while 3rd, Geoff Carter, from Auckland, has done 522.57km from 222 events at 2.4km.

Wessna-Stra'a has the 19km Rottnest Channel Swim each season, and a series of swims run by WA Swimming that regularly offer 10km and 5km. In most other areas, anything more than 2.5km is uncommon. Many of the Wessna-Stra'an rankings, then, include average distances of 4km to 6km. Last season's 2nd in the fine ocean swimmers' tallies, Caitlyn James, did 152.7km from 20 events, average 7.6km.

Nth-Curly 0414 dh
North Curl Curl, the 3 Points Challenge on December 5.

How many?

If you sort the tallies according to the number of events done, which surely is as valid a measure as total distance, the leader is another Aucklander, Jenny Stark, with 225 events, with 483.88km at an average 2.2km. This reflects those two mid-week series in Auckland, which offer sprint distances on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the season. Second is Carter again with his 222, and 3rd is our own Queen, Mrs Sparkle, with 219 events for a total 502.27km at an average 2.3km. Next is quite a ways back at 197 events.

And it all means?

These tallies tell you little reliable about the state of punters' swimming now. They give merely a snapshot of a section of the sport over that 10-year period. And they point to those who, over the past decade, have really put into the formal side of the sport. We're reminded constantly, however, that there are thousands of mug punters out there who swim distance every day, but informally, just with their cobbers or by themselves at the beach.

But we can't get a handle on them, for precisely that reason. They don't clock in, or log off. The fine ocean swimmsers' tallies produce merely a snapshot of one section of the sport.

But they're interesting.

Check the tallies...

Do you have a comment on this? We'll publish it in Controversy Corner. Have your say... Click here

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