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Crew & Equipment


1. Coach

A Coach is mandatory and is essential for the safety and motivation of the swimmer.  The Coach's knowledge and duties:

  • Preferably, knowledge and experience in marathon swimming.

  • A swimming background, with knowledge of both coaching and water safety

  • Attendance at several marathon training swims and the Trial Swim

  • Sit in the motorized inflatable boat next to the swimmer throughout the swim for the purposes of feeding, motivation, and troubleshooting any issues that may arise with the swimmer.

  • Supply the swimmer with foods, liquids and SSO approved medications for the duration of the swim.

  • A personal knowledge of the swimmer and their swimming habits – e.g. swimmer’s stroke, stroke rate and recognition of signs of the swimmer’s fatigue or injury.

  • Knowledge of how to motivate the swimmer. 

  • A list of personal details about the swimmer for the purpose of testing the swimmer’s mental state during the swim.

2. ​Manager

Although not mandatory, it is very helpful if a trusted competent person can take care of all the details of arrangements, communication with the crew, equipment, transportation and food. If someone else can take on organizing of the swim, it takes a lot of stress off of the swimmer. This is especially important in the 24 hours before the swim when the swimmer should be resting. 


3. Pacers

  • 2 to 4 pacers with previous open-water and cold-water experience. Their job is to keep the swimmer on course and provide an extra level of safety by being only an arm's length from the swimmer.

  • Prior to the swim, details of the experience of ALL the pacers shall be documented (see Forms) for the Swim Master’s approval. 

  • Pacers may use swimming aids such as a wet-suit, flippers, etc. but cannot swim at night  (see The Rules).

  • Pacers should bring warm clothes in order to warm up between swims.

4. Lifeguard-boat drivers

  • 3 or 4 lifeguard-boat drivers who have previous positive experience with accompanying a swimmer (see Guidelines for Lifeguard Boat Drivers).

  • Lifeguard boats are of the inflatable type and driving them usually involves driving an outboard motor using a steering handle.

  • Since September 15, 2009, all boat drivers (including boats less than 4 metres in length, and jet skis) are required to carry a Pleasure Craft Operator Card.  Obtaining a Pleasure Craft Operator Card involves passing a written boating test – details of which may be obtained from any Power Squadron or from

5. Lifeguards

  • 2 or 3 lifeguards with Bronze Cross or National Lifeguard Service certification.

  • Someone with lifeguard certification has to be in the lifeguard boat #1 by the swimmer's side.

6. Medical personnel

  • It is strongly recommended that, at the very least, one or more of the swimmer's crew is knowledgeable in first aid and CPR. 

  • If the swimmer has any potential medical issues, it is recommended that a doctor, nurse or paramedic be on board.

  • Medical crew and their equipment should be housed on the evacuation boat.

7. Land Crew

  • It is helpful to organize in advance the crew transportation to the start (e.g., Niagara-on-the-Lake) and home from the end (e.g. Toronto).

  • In the event of an evacuation in the first half of the swim, the boats may return to the starting marina. The land crew should be on standby for this eventuality.

Notes on Crew:

  • A marathon swim is an arduous undertaking, not only for the swimmer but also for the crew. Please do not select crew that have a medical condition that may potentially require evacuation during the swim. 

    • In the past, the captain of a lead boat suffered a heart attack a few days before the swim.

    • In an English Channel swim, the coach (also a swimmer), died of a heart attack.

  • Swims are better organized and run more smoothly if every person on the swim is given at least one job identified in advance.

  • To keep the number of crew manageable, crew can double-up on duties such as pacing, life-guarding, and lifeguard-boat driving.

  • Space on the lifeguard boats is limited and must accommodate support crew, safety equipment, carry-on bags, and food. No more than three people are allowed on a lifeguard boat at any one time. 

  • Do not choose crew who are prone to sea-sickness. Nevertheless, ensure there are sufficient remedies to combat the possibility of sea-sickness occurring.


Provided by SSO


  • Light-emitting-diode (LED) light for attachment to the swimmer’s goggle strap.

  • Chemical glow lights for the swimmer and the lifeguard boats during night swimming.

  • First-Aid kit.

  • Low-temperature thermometer.

  • Aluminum thermal blanket.

  • Two Handheld VHF radios

  • SPOT Tracker

  • Cor Temp monitoring system

Provided by the swimmer


It is the swimmer's responsibility to provide food for everyone, including swimmer, coach, pacers, crew, all personnel on the accompanying boats, and the Swim Master. Be environmentally conscious; no Styrofoam cups. For the swimmer, use recyclable or paper cups or, better still, retrievable plastic cups or plastic feeding bottles attached to the lifeguard boat on a string.


Recommended Equipment (in addition to required equipment, see Boats)

  • Spotlight to train on swimmer in darkness in each boat

  • Light to illuminate stern of lead boat.

  • Swimmer: Tinted, ultra-violet filtering swim goggles during the day, clear swim goggles at night, and thick bathing cap.

  • Swimmer: Vaseline or anhydrous lanolin, or other suitable non-allergenic grease that does not clog the pores of the skin to help with chafing and hypothermia.

  • Swimmer: Earplugs: Custom-made (available from hearing specialists), or silicone, or wax (both of which can be purchased at a drug store). These reduce hypothermia. 

  • Six hot packs to warm the swimmer.

  • Device(s) to facilitate feeding of the swimmer – e.g. feeding pole (to offer a cup or bottle), bottle on a rope, etc.

  • Anti-sea-sickness Sea Bands, or skin patches for the crew.

  • Large, pre-filled thermos flasks for initial swimmer feedings to minimize contact with the accompanying boats in the beginning hours of the swim, which is usually in darkness.

  • Whistle in each lifeguard boat

  • Optional Equipment

  • A third large (30 feet / 9 m) boat; a high-speed power boat, with ship-to-shore radio and GPS

  • Sea anchors (drogues) to slow the large boats down to reduce the strain of prolonged periods in neutral on gears and motors

  • Spare hand-held GPS system for use in the inflatable support boat.

  • Bullhorn/loudspeaker for the rear boat and lifeguard boat #1.

  • Net on a long pole to retrieve cups, goggles, etc.

  • Small black or white board for messages.

  • Closed sea kayak
  • Wetsuits, flippers, pull-buoys, kickboards, paddle boards for pacers 

  • Swimmer: footwear to prevent foot injuries when entering the water.


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