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Difficulty Rankings of

18 Bay Swims

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Bay Swim Difficulty Rankings


A  host of factors determine the "difficulty" of a Great Chesapeake Bay Swim (GCBS) event.   The three primary factors that contributed to the variations shown below are tidal currents, water temperature, and wind conditions (which affects swell, chop, and surface currents).  The difficulty rankings in the table below reflect what the average swimmer experiences; hence, "percent finishing" and "average time for 45-55 %-tiles of starters" are more important indicators than the times of the fastest swimmers.  A chart that graphs time versus finishing percentile is probably the best way to compare the relative difficulty of different Bay Swim events.  For facts about tidal currents see NOAA information, and for past water temperature and wind conditions see the data presented at the Past Conditions web page.  These statistics are archival and have not been updated to include GCBSs after 2003.

1986-2003 Bay Swims Ranked
from EASIEST to MOST DIFFICULT

Graphic Depiction of rankings.

Average Times

Click year for results.

Percent
Finishing

Winning
Time

Starters

All
Finishers

Notes

Ranking

Year

Top 10%

45-55%

EASIEST

1

1998

97.1%

1:27:12

1:35:21

2:06:16

2:06:16

a/b/

Stopwatch

2

2002

99.3%

1:25:07

1:35:54

2:08:02

2:11:14

b/c/

3

1990

96.3%

1:24:28

1:37:09

2:10:32

2:12:28

a/c/

4

1993

96.9%

1:33:22

1:42:51

2:18:59

2:19:19

d/

5

1994

96.6%

1:32:28

1:42:44

2:16:44

2:18:34

6

2001

97.1%

1:32:24

1:41:29

2:19:24

2:20:44

7

2000

96.8%

1:26:42

1:42:54

2:20:54

2:21:58

8

1995

94.2%

1:32:06

1:43:54

2:21:15

2:20:56

9

2003

89.2%

1:27:36

1:40:30

2:22:05

2:20:24

10

1987

94.9%

1:29:25

1:42:31

2:21:42

2:26:35

11

1996

90.6%

1:35:52

1:48:56

2:31:53

2:29:17

12

1989

90.5%

1:33:01

1:50:42

2:31:05

2:32:01

13

1999

83.8%

1:35:48

1:49:45

2:31:46

2:27:50

14

1997

78.7%

1:29:36

1:46:35

2:32:08

2:25:47

15

1986

81.2%

1:42:37

1:56:49

2:53:09

2:45:34

e/

16

1988

67.2%

1:30:57

1:50:58

2:45:17

2:28:38

17

1991

19.4%

1:36:48

2:10:29

did not finish

2:27:08

f/

MOST DIFFICULT

18

1992

14.5%

1:47:20

2:21:21

did not finish

2:33:37

Notes:

a/ The average times for the 66 swimmers who finished both in 1990 (2:06:38) and in 1998 (2:06:34) were virtually identical despite the fact that these individuals were all 8 years older in 1998 (average age in 1998 was 43.0 years)!  32 of these finishers (average age = 40.1 years) posted a faster time in 1998 and 34 of them (average age = 45.7 years) were faster in 1990.

b/ The average time for the 144 swimmers who finished both in 1998 (2:03:41) and in 2002 (2:09:05) was 5:24 slower in 2002.  This is too great to be accounted for by 4 years of aging.

c/ The average time for the 51 swimmers who finished both in 1990 (2:06:27) and in 2002 (2:14:54) was 8:27 slower in 2002.  Twelve years of aging should slow the group down by over 10 minutes (approx. 1 min/yr).

d/ The average time for the 191 swimmers who finished both in 1993 and in 1994 was 3 minutes slower in 1994.

e/ The 1986 course started at Westinghouse (south of the bridges) and finished by Hemingway's Restaurant.  Because this course is different than that for all the subsequent years, the times are not comparable and the 1986 ranking is based on the percentage of starters who completed the swim.

f/ Swimmers in 1991 and in 1992 were challenged by a strong ebb current (about 2 knots in the main channel), which prevented all but the strongest and most determined swimmers from finishing the course.  Only 22 swimmers finished both years (average times: 2:20:53 in 1991; 2:35:47 in 1992).


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