Open Water Swimming Rules 2009-2013


OWS 3.1 have full control and authority over all officials and shall approve their assignments and instruct them regarding all special features or regulations related to the competition. The Referee shall enforce all the Rules and decisions of FINA and shall decide all questions relating to the actual conduct of the competition, the final settlement of which is not otherwise covered by these Rules.

OWS 3.2 have authority to intervene in the competition at any stage to ensure that FINA Rules are observed.

OWS 3.2.1 In case of hazardous conditions that jeopardize the safety of the swimmers and the officials, in conjunction with the Safety Officer he can stop the race.

OWS 3.3 adjudicate on all protests related to the competition in progress.

OWS 3.4 give a decision in cases where the judges' decision and times recorded do not agree.

OWS 3.5 signal to swimmers, by raised flag and short blasts on a whistle, that the start is imminent and when satisfied indicate by pointing the flag at the starter that the competition may commence.

OWS 3.6 disqualify any swimmer for any violation of the Rules that he personally observes or which is reported to him by other authorised officials.

OWS 3.7 ensure that all necessary officials for the conduct of the competition are at their respective posts. He may appoint substitutes for any who are absent, incapable of acting or found to be inefficient. He may appoint additional officials if considered necessary.

OWS 3.8 receive all reports prior to the start of the race from the Clerk of the Course, Course Officer and Safety Officer.


OWS 3.9 Have authority to intervene in competition at any stage to ensure that FINA Rules are observed.

OWS 3.10 disqualify any swimmer for any violation of the Rules that he personally observes.


OWS 3.11 start the race in accordance to OWS 4 following the signal by the Chief Referee.


OWS 3.12 assign at least three Timekeepers to their positions for the start and finish.

OWS 3.13 ensure that a time check is made to allow all persons to synchronise their watches with the official running clocks 15 minutes before start time.

OWS 3.14 collect from each Timekeeper a card showing the time recorded for each swimmer, and, if necessary, inspect their watches.

OWS 3.15 record or examine the official time on the card for each swimmer.


OWS 3.16 take the time of each swimmer assigned. The watches must have memory and print out capability and shall be certified correct to the satisfaction of the Management Committee.

OWS 3.17 start their watches at the starting signal, and only stop their watches when instructed by the Chief Timekeeper.

OWS 3.18 promptly after each finish record the time and swimmers' number on the timecard and turn it over to the Chief Timekeeper.

Note: When Automatic Officiating Equipment is used, the same complement of hand timers is to be used.


OWS 3.19 assign each Judge to a position.

OWS 3.20 record and communicate any decision received from the Referees during the competition.

OWS 3.21 collect after the race, signed results sheets from each Judge and establish the result and placing which shall be sent directly to the Chief Referee.

FINISH JUDGES (three) shall:

OWS 3.22 be positioned in line with the finish where they shall have at all times a clear view of the finish.

OWS 3.23 record after each finish the placing of the swimmers according to the assignment given.

Note: Finish Judges shall not act as Timekeepers in the same event.


OWS 3.24 be positioned in an escort safety craft (where applicable), assigned by random draw prior to the start, so as to be able to observe, at all times, his appointed swimmer.

OWS 3.25 ensure at all times that the Rules of competition are complied with, violations being recorded in writing and reported to a Referee at the earliest opportunity.

OWS 3.26 have the power to order a swimmer from the water upon expiry of any time limit so ordered by the Referee.

OWS 3.27 ensure that his appointed swimmer does not take unfair advantage or commit unsporting impediment on another swimmer and if the situation requires instruct a swimmer to maintain clearance from any other swimmer.


OWS 3.28 be positioned so as to ensure all swimmers execute the alterations in course as indicated in the competition information documents and as given at the pre-race briefing.

OWS 3.29 record any infringement of the turn procedures on the record sheets provided and indicate the infringement to the Race Judge at the time of infringement by blasts on a whistle.

OWS 3.30 promptly upon completion of the event deliver the signed record sheet to the Chief Judge.


OWS 3.31 be responsible to the Referee for all aspects of safety related to the conduct of the competition.

OWS 3.32 check that the entire course, with special regard to the start and finish areas, is safe, suitable, and free of any obstruction.

OWS 3.33 be responsible for ensuring that sufficient powered safety craft are available during the competition so as to provide full safety backup to the escort safety craft.

OWS 3.34 provide prior to the competitions to all swimmers a tide/current chart clearly indicating the time of tide changes on the course and showing the effect of tides or current on a swimmer's progress along the course.

OWS 3.35 in conjunction with the Medical Officer advise the Referee if, in their opinion, conditions are unsuitable for staging the competition and make recommendations for the modification of the course or the manner in which the competition is conducted.


OWS 3.36 be responsible to the Referee for all medical aspects related to the competition and competitors.

OWS 3.37 inform the local medical facilities of the nature of the competition and ensure that any casualties can be evacuated to medical facilities at the earliest opportunity.

OWS 3.38 in conjunction with the Safety Officer, advise the Referee if, in their opinion, conditions are unsuitable for staging the competition and make recommendations for the modification of the course or the manner in which the competition is conducted.


OWS 3.39 be responsible to the Management Committee for the correct survey of the course.

OWS 3.40 ensure the start and finish areas are correctly marked and all equipment has been correctly installed and, where applicable, is in working order.

OWS 3.41 ensure all course alteration points are correctly marked, and manned prior to the commencement of the competition.

OWS 3.42 with the Referee and Safety Officer inspect the course and markings prior to the commencement of competition.

OWS 3.43 ensure that Turn Judges are in position prior to the start of the competition and report this to the Referees.


OWS 3.44 assemble and prepare competitors prior to each event and ensure proper reception facilities at the finish are available for all competitors.

OWS 3.45 ensure each competitor is identified correctly with their race number and that all swimmers have trimmed fingernails and toenails and are not wearing any jewellery, including watches.

OWS 3.46 be certain all swimmers are present, in the assembly area, at the required time prior to the start.

OWS 3.47 keep swimmers and officials informed of the time remaining before the start at suitable intervals until the last five minutes, during which one-minute warnings shall be given.

OWS 3.48 be responsible for ensuring that all clothing and equipment left in the start area is transported to the finish area and kept in safekeeping.

OWS 3.49 ensure that all competitors leaving the water at the finish have the basic equipment required for their well being should their own attendants not be present at that time.


OWS 3.50 record withdrawals from the competition, enter results on official forms, and maintain record for team awards as appropriate.

OWS 3.51 report any violation to the Chief Referee on a signed card detailing the event, and the rule infringement.