Open-water swimming brings a whole new challenge to both swimming and triathlon. There are a number of skills required to improve your open-water performance, which include sighting, drafting, positioning at the start of a race, positioning in a pack, and yes, how you turn around the buoy(s).
Turning around a buoy itself can be relatively simple and a few different techniques can be employed. The first is simply to twist your body around the buoy as you swim. You may need to do a short doggy paddle stroke or two with the arm which is closest to the buoy, however your outside arm should be able to swim normally throughout. The advantage of this is it means little disruption to your stroke but the disadvantage is the need to be flexible to twist around the buoy.
The second technique is to roll onto your back for one stroke and then back onto your front by continuing your rotation in the same direction, a bit like a corkscrew. As you rotate, aim to turn through 90° and exit having turned around the buoy.
The advantage of this technique is that the rotation can help you change direction, the disadvantage is that you leave your stomach and chest open to a hit from a misplaced swing from someone nearby. Practise both and you may find you become more confident with one over the other.
Once you’re happy with these techniques you might also want to think about how you approach the race to make the turn at the buoys easier. Mass starts mean lots of swimmers are likely to be trying to get into the space around a buoy – which can make for a very uncomfortable experience.
To ease this, try either starting on the outside of the group and swimming a fraction wider around the buoy, or, if you have a bit of a change of pace, try to position yourself in a group (maybe closer towards the front) before you reach the buoy.
For lots more swim drills and advice head to our Training section