Open Water swimmers from around South Africa and internationally will welcome the move by event organizers to have separate categoties for wetsuit and non wetsuit swimmers.

The purists in the fledgling sport adhere to English Channel rules when swimming, which means that only a swimming costume (speedo), goggle and a cap maybe be worn.

Wetsuits are regarded as being an unfair advantage as they prevent a swimmer from feeling the cold and add to buoyancy which means a swimmer wearing a wetsuit will be able to swim faster as well as for longer in cold water.

Steve Munatones, a former world open water swim champion has succinctly described how open water swimmers feel about what they do.

“As swimmers prepare themselves on the shoreline to face the rigors of open water swimming, they truly stand exposed to the elements.

Confident in their own skin, they do not need much equipment or many tools.

At its very core, open water swimming is a primordial contest in which athletes are stripped nearly bare and asked to test themselves against Mother Nature”

The 2010 Bell Buoy was swum without wetsuits in 15 degree water and cold conditions.

Another positive move by the organisers, Zports is that a 5 K qualifying swim is mandatory for all swimmers who have not yet completed a prior Bell Buoy swim.

This will make the event much safer for the participants who will have to swim 2.5 K out to sea, braving open ocean swell, wind and currents to round the Bell Buoy reef. Water safety will also have the assurance that swimmers out there have the capabilities to have a good shot at finishing the swim.

The following swims have been graded as qualifying swims and include the 5 K which forms part of the swims at the 2011 Steers Marina Mile.

* Marina Martinique (www.marina-mile.co.za) – Saturday 31st December.

* EPA Open Water Swimming Championships (www.ecswim.co.za) – Saturday 28th / Sunday 29th January 2012

* Cirrus Bio-Ears Swim Challenge Series (www.ecswim.co.za) – Saturday 3rd / Sunday 4th March 2012

* 3-Beaches Swim Challenge – Wednesday 21st March 2012

* Cirrus Bio-Ears Swim Challenge Series (www.ecswim.co.za) – Saturday 31st March / Sunday 1st April 2012

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