Thursday, January 12, 2017

Langkawi Swim Fest (6km). 10 Dec 2016

I am in two minds about this event.
There's not that many swim events around, so as a participant I am grateful that a reasonably good one was provided at the stunning location of Tanjung Rhu. The location really was stunning. Standing on the beach of Tanjung Rhu and looking out to the island that we had to swim around, it took my breath away. Wow, what a view.

Red flags 50 meters apart had already been laid out to mark the course. What amazed me was that the flags were in a perfectly straight line, irrespective of what the currents did. The flags were not tied to each other or tied to the ground but it had a self adjusting weight mechanism which meant that it always stayed at its intended spot. I have not seen such straight swim course markers before.
But, what really annoyed me about this race was the lack of prompt responses from the Organiser on their Event Page to our requests for information. They were super quiet. It smelt like a scam, a bogus web-site  to collect entry fees, I sincerely thought. Thus I couldn't recommend to friends, what was actually a good event.
The Swim Fest could have been very well attended. Stunning location, good prize money (RM1,500 to the winner of each category), variety of distances (2km, 4km or 6km), below and above 40 years for the 6km, strongly supported and funded by the local authority (LADA) as part of the multi-event Pesta Langkawi. The Swim Fest could have been something great. The swimming internet world should have been abuzz with this event, had the Organiser  created the initial inertia on the internet. Once the Swim Fest was confirmed legit, swimmers would very  quickly pass the word around.

In the end, 44 male and female swimmers finished the 6km swim (2 DNF), 7 male and female swimmers finished the 4km swim (1 DNF) and 20 finished the 2km (3 DNF).
i.e. only 77 swimmers started in total. Pattaya a week earlier had 180 swimmers and there was no prize money.
The International Category (6km) just didn't look right. There were only five International participants. Prize money was given to all five participants (being the Top Five).  The top five were:
  1. Serge Dominichi (our good friend from France living in KL, who only found out about this event the previous day.   1 hour 58 min, a good time).
  2. Amir from Singapore. 3 hours 23 min
  3. Mohamad from Spore. 3 hours 38 min
  4. Mohd from Spore . 3 hours 40 min
  5. Azmil from Spore. 3 hours 54 min.
Whilst the winner's time (Serge) was a good winning time, what about the other international participants?. The person who came in second was a huge 1 hour 25 minutes behind the winner. Are International swimmers really this bad?

The Organiser (Iskandar Sharil) is a Singaporean Malay. All the International participants apart from the winner are Singaporean Malays. One of them is a Facebook friend of the Singaporean Organiser (Iskandar Shahril) and thanked him profusely in a Facebook post that he could win a prize.

Singapore is the best swimming nation in Asean. One of them actually beat Michael Phelps at the recent Rio Olympics. Why only four very slow swimmers who seemed to know the Organiser came?
The Organiser (Iskandar Shahril) told me they only had 5 weeks to do everything and admitted there were shortcomings.
There were other shortcomings too:
  1. Winners were given wrong trophies and placards to hold during prize giving on stage. This is so annoying when we have to hold the wrong  prizes on stage.
  2. I still have not received my trophy more than a month after the event, even though Iskandar told me he would sort it out.
Anyway lets go into the actual event.
The course is stunning, no doubt about that and  very well marked with flags 50m apart in a perfectly straight line. The most beautiful setting for a swim race I have participated in. With only 44 participants doing the 6km, swimmers were largely swimming on their own.

6km swimmers had to do a complete circle of the island twice. The waves behind the island were the biggest I have seen. Its not for beginners. Lifeboats  courtesy of the Navy were available but only at the main marker buoys. Special pontoons with drinks were also available. Friends told me that the strong currents have taken a few lives around Tanjung Rhu. Luckily no untoward incident happened. Some participants were just  "beginners" but they managed to finish and collapsed in a heap almost 4.5 hours after the start.

Many swimmers sighted jelly fish. I saw a huge white jelly fish which just missed me. But as I was about to start the second loop of the island (at around 3km), I felt the long tentacles of a jelly fish wrapped around both my ankles. It was a sharp piercing pain. I kept on swimming not losing my momentum. Its difficult to tell how a jelly fish sting would affect different individuals. It can be fatal (eg the box jelly fish at Pantai Cenang) or the sting could even go away after a few minutes. Well this time the sting didn't go away, but I was able to finish. I believe the swimmer just behind me also got stung. The organisers had vinegar at the finish which helped a little bit.

The trick to counter jelly fish is to cover your body with lycra completely. So I wore the Skins Long Sleeve Compression for my top. This type of clothing is not allowed for FINA sanctioned races and serious open water swims like the English Channel, Rottnest Channel etc. The idea being swim wear has to be simple as in the old days. Unfortunately I only had tri shorts for my bottom. My calves and ankles were completely exposed and I got stung.

The Sunscreen that claims to offer protection from jelly fish also didn't help.

The race did offer good prize money for each category. RM 1,500 for first placing but only RM 50 for 4th and 5th Placings. RM 50 is probably too low for a prize.
All the male International participants received prize money. There were no female international participants.
Only two females finished the 6km and 4km swims even though prize money went five deep.


Nice glass plaques were given to the top five finishers for each category. But I still have not got my trophy more than one month after the event. Where is it Iskandar Shahril?

Full results here.

SEA Games Gold Medalist and almost a Rio participant, Kevin Yeap finished 1st Overall in 1 hour 21 min.
I only finished in 2 hours 11 Mins (2nd Male Veteran, RM 800).

Nice T shirt and Medal. Tip took the Prize Money

Its possible to get to Langkawi from KLIA, KLIA2 and even Subang Airport. Many options.

There's actually many options at or near to Tanjung Rhu. There's The Four Seasons and many simple but ok hotels very close to the race start.
A number of participants actually camped on the race beach.
We rented a car (less than RM 100 per day) at the Airport and stayed at Tanjung Puteri Motel about 5km from the race start.
Actual million dollar view from our cheap motel balcony (Tanjung Puteri Motel)
At our Motel. We swam around the island at my left shoulder
The Good Points:
  1. Beautiful location. The best scenery.
  2. Perfectly straight course markers.
  3. High waves for serious ocean swimmers.
  4. Prize Money.
  5. Many categories and distances.
  6. Nice T shirt and Medal
  7. Grand prize giving ceremony.

The Bad Points:
  1. Organiser not generating interest before the event and responding late or not at all to some of my queries.
  2. Only five international participants and four of them seems to be friends of the Organiser. Come on Iskandar, what happened to other participants from  Singapore?
  3. I still have not got my second place trophy more than a month after the event.
  4. Poor quality swim cap. I threw mine away.
  5. Very high waves around the island. Not recommended for even average swimmers. People have died here, I am told.
  6. Jelly fish. Langkawi has the Box jelly fish which is fatal (eg. at Pantai Cenang).
  7. Wrong trophies and mock cheques during prize giving.
  8. Only RM50 prize money for fourth and fifth placings (the entry fee was RM 100).
Only for competent ocean swimmers and those looking for adventure and beauty.




iamsyah said...

What an adventure! You make me itch to hit the pool again!


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