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America’s Top 10 Most Competitive Open Water Races America's Top 10 Most Competitive Open Water Races based on the overall speed and experience of the top 10 men and women in each event. 1. RCP Tiburon Mile The race offers the most money (US$10,000) and draws the most accomplished field of any race in America. With a start on rugged Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, usually over 800 swimmers race to the shores of downtown Tiburon, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in northern California. The course is a cold-water, point-to-point swim of just slightly longer than 1 mile in September or October (depending on the tides). Besides Olympians, NCAA champions and world open water swimming champions from all over the world, swimmers face strong currents and relatively cold water (around 60°F). In addition to being a charity swim for the Special Olympics of Northern California, over 800 age-group, collegiate and masters swimmers compete with pool Olympians, English Channel swimmers and world open water champion swimmers from over 20 countries, including Russia, Australia, South Africa, Italy, Brazil, Mexico and Canada. US$10,000 is awarded to overall male and female winners – a wonderfully exciting winner-take-all competition. 2. USA Swimming National 5K and 10K Open Water Swimming Championships The race certainly has a lot riding on the outcome. With spots on the USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Team available and international travel as the carrot stick, the fastest pool and open water swimmers lay it all out on the line. These Championships have been held in Ft. Myers, Florida over the past several years and have now relocated to Long Beach, California. The Championships are also open this year to athletes from any nation. In Long Beach, the top Canadian and Azerbaijan will swim shoulder-to-shoulder with the top Americans. To represent one's country allows brings out the best in America's best and most competitive open water swimmers. 3. Waikiki Roughwater Swim Honolulu is site of a really tough race to win with an international field of experienced open water swimmers coming from all over the world. As the inspiration behind the Hawaiian Ironman's 2.4-mile swim leg, the event starts at the foot of Diamond Head volcano and finishes at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. An annual Labor Day extravaganza in early September, over 1,000 swimmers swim over beautiful coral beds and colorful marine life in a stunningly picturesque course. There is high surf and strong currents on occasion, depending on the conditions. With four decades of race experience under its belt, the venerable Waikiki Roughwater Swim Committee hosts a safe and memorable event from swimmers of all ages and backgrounds from dozens of countries and every U.S. state. In 1970, the race saw 4 women and 32 men swim across Waikiki and its reputation over the years is well-deserved.

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4. Trans Tahoe Relay

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The 11.5-mile masters relay runs across Lake Tahoe from Sand Harbor Beach in Nevada to Skylandia Beach, Lake Forest in California). The most popular masters swimming relay in the world, six-person relays fight it out at an altitude of more than 6,200 feet - and in cold-water (55-60°F). The clear-water event requires a high level of physical fitness, but allows no wetsuits to be worn by the numerous accomplished pool and open water swimmers including world open water swimming champions, FINA World Cup and FINA Grand Prix pro swimmers, and NCAA and Olympic Trial qualifiers and top masters swimmers from dozens of states and countries. 5. Maui Channel Swim A 9.6-mile, 6-person relay race across an incredibly gorgeous channel. Despite the spectacular setting, many swimmers go all-out in racing across the Au’au (Maui) Channel between the island of Lanai and the island of Maui in Hawaii. The race starts at the north side of Lanai on an uninhabited stretch of beach and finishes on the south side of Maui by a stretch of luxurious resort hotels in early September. Six swimmers alternate 30-minute legs as they cross one of the most beautiful channels in the world and gaze upon five islands: Lanai, Maui, Molokai, Oahu and Hawaii if the weather permits. Conditions can range from calm to rough with colorful marine life and clear warm cobalt blue water always on tap. Strong winds and strong currents play a large part on the success of each relay and the duration of their swim. The six-person relay race, started as a competition in 1972 between the Waikiki Swim Club and the Olympic Club of San Francisco, has now grown to over 60 teams of six and dozens of solo swimmers from numerous states, Australia, Japan and Taiwan. “The only masters interisland relay race in the world.” 6. La Jolla Rough Water Swim The multi-race event offers a 3-mile feature race in La Jolla, California, just north of San Diego, California. Known as the Gatorman, the start and finish is located at the picturesque La Jolla Cove, a natural amphitheater for ocean swims in September. The other races for swimmers of all ages and abilities include a 250-yard, 1 mile and 3 mile-swim. Known as America’s Premier Rough Water Swim, the event began in 1916 when 7 men swam 1.7 miles in the beautiful La Jolla Cove. By 1925, 8 men and 11 women swam the race. By 1950, 105 swimmers entered. In 1984, over 1,000 swimmers entered. In 1998, 2,255 swimmers participated, but in 1999, a cap of 2,000 was placed on the number of swimmers in order to maintain the high standards of the organizing committee. Besides the usual bevy of strong age-group and masters swimmers, there are always former Olympic and NCAA champions in the mix, often swimming among marine life and between kelp. With water clarity is among the best along the West Coast, the water temperature is in the 60°s F.

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7. Great Chesapeake Bay Swim

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The always fast and competitive race is the staple in the Mid-Atlantic. Held in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, it is a 4.4-mile point-to-point race in June. In 1982, a 21-year-old local swimmer was the first to cross the Chesapeake Bay in memory of his father. In 1983, two swimmers entered the first official race and 60 swimmers participated in the second year. The swim grew to 870 entrants by 1990, with finishers ranging from 12 to 76 years old. In order to maintain high safety standards, the organizing committee now limits the race to 600 swimmers. It takes less than 18 minutes for the entire field of 600 swimmers to be filled up using the current online entry system. Strong currents can meet a slew of very competitive age-group, collegiate and masters swimmers. 8. Nike Swim Miami The race is an increasingly popular and very competitive multi-sport competition in the sheltered waters of Miami's Marine Stadium in Florida. Held in April, the rectangular course offers races at distances of 1 mile, 5K and 10K. While swimmers enjoy the beautiful Miami downtown skyline in warm waters, they also have to compete against several Olympians, Olympic medalists and professional marathon swimmers who take part in an enjoyable event for swimmers of all ages and abilities. 9. Big Shoulders 5K Swim Lake Michigan along the shores of Chicago, Illinois is drawing increasingly competitive among age-group, collegiate and masters swimmers to its annual race. The triangular course starts and finishes at the Ohio Street Beach and offers both a 2.5K and 5K distance in September. Each loop is 2.5K where the swimmers can face chilly and windy conditions with a water temperature that can vary between 65°F and 75°F as they view the impressive Chicago skyline. A separate wetsuit division is held. The race was founded by Olympic gold medalist, Bill Mulliken. 10. Manhattan Island Marathon Swim Run by NYC Swim, the globally-renowned race is a 28.5-mile circumnavigation in the waters around Manhattan Island in New York City. The course is a complete counter-clockwise circumnavigation of Manhattan Island, starting and finishing near Wall Street in June or July. It is a competitive race because it is difficult to be accepted with a well-defined application process and it is limited to 25 solo swimmers and 18 relay teams. In recent years, the field sells out in less than 45 minutes from the time the online application is open online. The first race first held in 1927, but it has really picked up in prestige and competitiveness under the management of the NYC Swim. There is substantial surface chop and a strong tidal pull throughout much of the race with the water temperature between 62-67°F (16-19°C). It is the premier event on the NYC Swim calendar that conducts other open water swims like the Lady Liberty Swim, Park to Park Swim, Governors Island Swim, Brooklyn Bridge Swim, Little Red Lighthouse Swim and Ederle Swim.
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Other Competitive Races But competition is heating up wherever you go from shore-to-shore: 24-mile Tampa Bay Marathon Swim in Tampa Bay, Florida 2.4-mile Alcatraz Challenge in San Francisco Bay American Swimming Association events in Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, including the American Swimming Association Open Water Collegiate National Championships North Shore Surf 'n Sea Swim Series along the famous north shore of Oahu, Hawaii 12.5-mile Swim Around Key West in Florida Bridge-to-Bridge 10K Swim in San Francisco Open Water Festival in Fort Myers Beach, Florida Lake Berryessa Open Water Swim in Lake Berryessa, California Glen S. Hummer Huntington Mile in Lake Clare, Huntington, Indiana Jack King 1-mile Ocean Swim in Virginia Beach, Virginia Chris Greene Lake 2-mile Cable Swim in Charlottesville, Virginia Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim in Manhattan Beach, California 8.2-mile Pennock Island Challenge in Ketchikan, Alaska Boston Light 8-mile Swim in Boston, Massachusetts 25K St. Vincent’s Medical Center's SWIM Across the Sound in Connecticut 7K Hawaiian Christmas Looong Distance Swim on Oahu in Honolulu, Hawaii Columbus Swims in Ohio Fort Lauderdale Rough Water Swim in Florida

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