How do I draft properly in races and avoid getting kicked?
Our resident Olympian answers your swimming questions
I have heard a lot about the benefits of drafting in open water races, but I am scared of getting my face kicked! How do I draft properly and avoid this happening?
I can completely understand your worries as I have been kicked more than once. However you should try and put that fear behind you as efficient drafting can save you up to 25% of energy. There are two main ways to draft, on the swimmer in front’s hip or on their feet.
The one main thing that people tend to get wrong is that they swim too far away from the person they are trying to draft to actually feel any benefit. You want to be as close to the other swimmer as possible without hitting them – do try your hardest not to tap the person in front’s toes as this is the single most annoying thing that can happen in swimming! You want your fingers to be 5 to 10cm behind the person in front. Remember, you also need to sight, do not rely on the person in front’s ability to swim in a straight line.
The other way is to sit on the hip of the person you are drafting. You want your head to be in line with their belly button. Try to get your stroke rate in time with theirs so you don’t bang arms.
To make the most of the benefit you want to find a swimmer who is just slightly faster than you and use them to pull you along. Do not be afraid to move from one person to the next.
“Swimming was my whole life for over 20 years. I poured every ounce of enthusiasm into it. I am so fortunate to have found these new outlets for that enthusiasm.”
Cassie Patten won bronze in the first ever Olympic 10km marathon swim, in the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Cassie now coaches and is a frequent commentator at open water events.