Sighting: a key skill

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Sighting is a fundamental open water technique, which allows you to navigate accurately while swimming in the open water and needs to be revisited regularly.

The concept is “crocodile eyes”: you raise your head slightly, just before you take a breath and you only lift your eyes just out the water.


Crocodile Eyes!

Sight – turn – breathe

To swim straight you will save time and energy but to have this, your stroke needs to be balanced and symmetrical. No crossing over the centre line of the body, bilateral breathing is advised and constant exhaling. Early exit at the back of the stroke can lead to less propulsion on the one side and a ‘weaker arm’ can prevent you from duplicating the correct pathway that the ‘strong arm’ performs, which results in you swimming off course.


Correct technique

Time your sighting to happen just before you are about to take a breath. Lift your eyes out of the water by pressing down lightly on the water with your lead arm. Eyes just enough out the water. Your left arm will start to recover over the water, turn your head to the right to breathe. Let your head drop down into the water to the normal breathing position.


“Crocodile eyes” allow little disruption to the stroke and legs don’t drop too much which reduces drag.



Sighting Basics

· Sight between every 3 to 12 strokes. This will depend on conditions and how balanced your front crawl stroke is.

· Check the balance of your stroke by closing your eyes and swim 15 strokes. Do you veer off to one side?

· Don’t panic if you can’t see the object you’re sighting on clearly. Give your brain time to process all the images you are sighting on and turn a blurry picture into a clear one.

· Don’t rely on other swimmers to show you the way around the course.

· Know the route of the race you have entered. Pick LARGE immovable object (on the horizon / land) as a reference point and make sure you cannot confuse them with another. The higher the reference points the better.

· Always sight BIG, then small.

· Make sure the object you are sighting is not a boat, ship or swan.

· Never wear new goggles for the first time on race day. Always test them before the race and make sure they don’t leak or fog up. I like to buff my goggles with a tiny bit of dish liquid or anti fog spray before I swim.



Important drills to help with alignment in the stroke which helps with swimming straight.

Always make sure you have good posture, with shoulder blades back, tummy in and kicking from the hips.

- Kicking on your LEFT and RIGHT side

- 6 / 1/ 6

- 6/ 3/ 6

- Broken Arrow

- Baton 6 / 1 / 6



What do you need to look for to sight straight?



1. Use obvious & visual points in the landscape.

2. Choose highly visible permanent structures: like wind turbines, pylons & buildings

3. Avoid using objects that could move, like cars, moored boats

4. Objects low in the water may become obscured by waves or swell.

5. Beware distances can become difficult to judge.

6. The sun in your eyes can make sighting difficult.


Which lenses are best for my goggles?

· Polarised goggles are brilliant for strong sunlight which helps cut out the glare on bright days.

- TYR – specialised polarised op goggles are fantastic for the sun.

· Mirrored goggles also cut out glare. They look pretty cool and are great for psyching out your fellow competitors before the klaxon goes.

· Clear goggles are suitable for outdoors and have a UV protective coating but they don’t reduce brightness or glare.

· Smoke goggles reduce brightness by creating a darker view. The darker the tint the less suitable the lenses are for low light environments.

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