In 2002 some Swedes made a drunken bet at a bar, challenging each other to a race through the Stockholm archipelago. They decided they'd go from an island called Utö to another called Sandhamn, approximately 75 kms away, with the last team of two to pay for the hotel, dinner and drinks. Two teams of two started the next morning with the only rule being that they had to pass three different restaurants on the islands between the start and the finish. It took them more than 24 hours. They tried again the year after with the same result.
In 2006 Michael Lemmel and Mats Skott were asked if they could make a commercial race out of this challenge. The first couple of years only 11 teams started and only two managed to finish within the time limits. Unlike the original course, Utö became the finish line while Sandhamn became the start, and the race became known as the ÖtillÖ (island to island). Today the race is known as the Swimrun World Championship.
Photo credit: Jakob Edholm / ÖtillÖ Swimrun
The ÖtillÖ Swimrun World Series includes the ÖtillÖ World Championship race, some other European races organised by the founders of the ÖtillÖ, and Merit Races run by other Swimrun organisations. All World Series races are considered to be unique, and aim to challenge people's mental and physical endurance.
Although there are over 250 Swimrun races scheduled worldwide for 2017, only a handful of races are selected as Merit Races in the ÖtillO Swimrun World Series. Rottnest Swimrun will be the first ÖtillÖ World Series Merit Race in the southern hemisphere, with competitors able to earn Swimrun ranking points which could help them qualify for a place in the World Championship final in Stockholm in 2018.
“Merit Races are events that we think are the best in the class when it comes to safety, racer experience, race quality and race management. These events are usually the first events in the region and we see them as lighthouses to guide to the direction of SwimRun.”, said Michael Lemmel, Race Director of SwimRun World Series and Founder of SwimRun.
Each team that finishes a merit event gets ranking points in the ÖtillÖ Swimrun Ranking system. These points are essential for participation in ÖtillÖ, the Swimrun World Championship, as teams are selected based on ranking. Furthermore, the only teams that are allowed to participate in the "random ticket selection” are teams with Swimrun ranking points.
The Perth Race Directors are thrilled with the opportunity that this provides the competitors at Rottnest Swimrun, who can now use the Rottnest Swimrun to earn World Series Event ranking points.
“We are really excited that Rottnest Swimrun has been chosen as a merit race for the Swimrun World Series, we would love to see some of our competitors over in Sweden next year” said Dan Paech, co-founder of Rottnest Swimrun.
Being a World Series Merit Race will also increase the appeal of Rottnest Swimrun for international competitors, with the opportunity to experience Western Australia's beautiful beaches, warm climate, and earn Swimrun ranking points at the same time.
"With our race just one month before the SwimRun season kicks off in Europe, we think Rottnest Swimrun will have appeal in terms of timing. It's a great time for those in the northern hemisphere to escape late winter and travel south for a holiday."
Last year, 50 teams registered for the inaugural Rottnest Swimrun, with 45 teams starting the race on the day and all of them finishing within the allocated cut-off time.
The winning-team, a mixed team of Emily Loughnan and Gary Couanis, crossed the finish line in an impressive 3 hours and 36 minutes. When asked to reflect on her experience at the 2017 Rottnest Swimrun, Loughnan said:
“There is something quite wild and primal about Swimrun. The event upheld a love for the spectacular, natural beauty of Rottnest Island, and an overwhelming urge to embrace this and all the hazards that come with it. Competing in pairs engenders an ethos that is obviously grounded in teamwork and camaraderie. For me it was a refreshing competitive arena and I can't wait to go around again in 2018.”
Building on the success of the inaugural Rottnest Swimrun 2017 – WA’s first ever Swimrun event - the 2018 event will see double the number of team spots available, with 90 of the 100 team spots open to general admission.
Rottnest Swimrun will be held on March 10th and tickets for the event go on sale here this Thursday, October 19th 2017 at 5pm WST.