Open Water Swimming is obviously a different prospect than the more comfortable confines of the pool. Temperature, current, waves and the absence of guide lines make staying on course more difficult, but there are some simple techniques that you can use to help you when you are open water swimming.
Stick your head out of the water every four or five strokes just before you breathe and see where you are heading, you can often use the buoys as markers, but this can sometimes be difficult if the water is choppy, if this is the case you can use markers on the land over the buoys. Also make sure that your goggles are tinted because the sun can prohibit this technique if it is too strong.
The worse thing you can do is follow another swimmer thinking that they know where they are going, because if you are having trouble then they could well be having the same problems and have less of an idea how to solve
them than you do.
Other swimmers are always a problem, if you can get away from the pack then do so, and if you are not a strong swimmer then let the better swimmers go ahead so you can race your race with less bother from them. Getting kicked is no fun and can really spoil your race, especially if you get one in the face. The best thing to do if it happens is to remain cool and maybe even stop and regain your composure, and of course keeping your distance from the person in front is a good plan because this just slows both of you down if you make contact.
If you can get through the pandemonium at the race start and respect other swimmers space while freely swimming in your own you should do better than losing your temper and lashing out, there is always one idiot who thinks they own the whole sea, just ignore them and concentrate on your own race.
Doing some homework about the course and the conditions is always a good idea, it may save some surprises down the road. Check if the current is strong and which way it is going, and if for instance it is running to the right then make sure that you start the race on the left end of the start line, and then swim with your sight on the left side of the buoy. You will be pulled to the right by the current but have to fight it much less than if you started on the other end of the start line.
Being in the sea you may also run into things like stingrays and jellyfish, sometimes the stings are not anything to bother you while you are racing, but if you are unlucky enough to get a bad one, there are always the lifeguards to help you out.
Races are generally pretty safe these days, and there are precautions to stop any serious injuries in the sea, but following a few of these simple tips may help you get through the swim with no problems and help you finish with a better time.