RACE DIRECTORS REPORT ÖTILLÖ SWIMRUN MALTA 2022
THE DAY OF THE STORM
As the teams crossed the finish line it was apparent that we had made the right decision. At times during race day it felt like a perfect day on the leeward side of Malta. At other times we almost had to kneel down as the wind and rain descended upon us. A race on the west side of the island would have been impossible.
Malta is spectacular. A perfect destination for autumn swimrun. For weeks the weather on Malta had been absolutely still. The water temperature was a little warmer than usual at 24 degrees and it was looking like we would have a picture- perfect end of the season. But as the we came closer to the race week a storm started building on all weather apps for the weekend of the race. For two days only. How likely was that? On the Wednesday before the race the message was too clear. We had a storm coming for us. A big one.
On the Wednesday morning Mats, Michael & Johanna decided together with our local heroes Jon, Nello and Gordon that we had to make major changes. That it would be impossible to use anything facing west. Including our start and finish and after-party sites. That the only option to be able to put on races was to re-think completely.
Mats, Michael & Johanna worked on new routes. Using old ones, reversing them, connecting them in other ways and looking for new options in nature. Driving around, running around and pouring over maps. At the end of the day we had a new concept for three race courses with a new start and finish and a new logistics plan. Nello then got the whole new project in his lap to try to secure the new permits. Jon and Gordon re-grouped and communicated with all volunteers and support entities according to the new plans. Buses were secured for transporting racers and we felt like we were ready. A usual 4 – 10 week permitting period now took 36 hours thanks to well established contacts and very understanding authorities.
Waking up in the morning of a race knowing that we had to face a storm is always special. You look out to see that it is real. Then you go over the whole race over and over in your mind to make sure everything is switched on correctly. Then you go out and face the storm with all senses wide open.
Nature was kind to us. We managed to start the World Series in perfect sunshine. We managed to register the Sprint and Experience racers in the same sunshine. We managed to start the Sprint and Experience distances as the first drops started to come out of the sky and the wind making itself quite visible. It would have been extremely miserable if the morning would have been as the afternoon then turned out. When the racers are out on the course they are moving and getting wet anyway so at that point it was just about managing the safety and making sure that the volunteers braved it out.
To have all Experience racers finish with massive smiles and lots of endorphins oozing out of them is such a great feeling. There is such a positive vibe at the finish line as you see young, old, newbies and veterans finishing. It really accentuates the why for doing all of this for so long. Then you have the Sprint racers; also with lots of positive energy but with a little more of a competitive edge and then there are the World Series racers where the smiles are of course there but you can also sense the elation or disappointment of their achievements. To have all these feelings intermixed at the finish line in a couple of hours is really a special moment to share.
We cannot speak about this last race of the season without speaking about Max & Hugo. What outstanding athletes they are. Not only winning every race this season but also the way they do it. With such a humble attitude. Always waiting at the finish line for all podium racers and always giving words of encouragement. They are perfect ambassadors for our sport.
There is of course also Desirée Andersson. Winning again in Mixed. A true winning machine. A second time in a row with Alexis Charrier. Just ahead of Ulrika Eriksson in the Womens category, now racing with her planned World Championship partner Hanna Skårbratt, showing again why they as a team are a force to recon with.
But most importantly, just about everyone who started the races finished the races. Hail, rain, gale force winds and waves could not stop the determination of all of you. It was a day when just starting a race was the winning ticket.
As nature did what it could to show us that it was in control of our destiny we also as a community showed that we stand together, adapt and make the best of the day. All under the constant energy of Xandru – our finish line MC who kept the fires burning even during the onslaught of the squalls.
The strength of the message from the community was better in this storm than if we would have had a sunny, easy day. Together we are stronger.
Thank you all for a season when we could show that swimrun and ÖTILLÖ is back. No matter what.
Malta – we will be back. To put on the races we had planned and to show another part of your beautiful island.
Jon, Nello, Gordon, Xandru and all volunteers. Thank you. This would have been impossible without you.
We hope to see more of you all in 2023!