Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Safeguarding Swims With The Japan Coast Guard

The Japan Coast Guard (or JCG or 海上保安庁) in Japanese, was formerly called the Maritime Safety Agency when it was founded in 1948. The JCG is the Japanese federal agency that employs about 12,000 personnel for the protection of Japanese waters and coastlines.

The Japan Coast Guard remains under the oversight of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Its ships and personnel patrol Japan's territorial seas and between 12 – 200 nautical miles out from the shore to provide various safeguards and countermeasures.

The Japan Coast Guard works against piracy and illegal operations and resolves maritime conflict as well as provide search and rescue, oceanographic surveying and maritime traffic management. It also works with local fishermen's unions and reviews and approves solo and relay crossings of the Tsugaru Channel by swimmers attempting swims under the auspices of the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and Ocean-navi.

"We started working with the Japan Coast Guard back in 1988 on channel swims and marathon swims. Since that time, Commander Matsuzaki and subsequent teams all over Japan from Yonaguni Island in Okinawa to the Tsugaru Channel on the shores of Hokkaido were extremely helpful in planning swims around Japan," explains Steven Munatones who works with Masayuki Moriya of Ocean-navi and Yuko Matsuzaki of the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association. "The Japan Coast Guard personnel's knowledge of the local waters, conditions, currents and marine life are extraordinary. With a typical Japanese focus on details, careful planning and deep concern for the welfare of swimmers, they have been a tremendous joy to work with over the years."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Swimming With The Flying Dragon

It is only 19.5 km from shore to shore, a mere 12 miles at its closest point across the Tsugaru Channel.

Comparing the times of the channel crossings of the 14 swimmers who have crossed the 21-mile English Channel, the 20.2-mile Catalina Channel and the 12-mile Tsugaru Channel, the average times are comparable:

* English Channel = 13 hours 23 minutes
* Catalina Channel = 12 hours 31 minutes
* Tsugaru Channel = 13 hours 39 minutes (not including the 3 DNFs of swimmers who crossed the English Channel but not the Tsugaru Channel)

Not only does the geographic layout of the shorelines and currents cause huge eddies, but the winds and resultant surface turbulence are a forceful obstacle of the Tsugaru Channel.

The very name of one of the starting points in the Tsugaru Channel gives a hint as to why this channel is such a challenge: Tappi Misaki or 竜飛岬 in the original Japanese language means The Cape of the Flying Dragon.

"Tappi Misaki has a strong wind all year round," explains Yuko Matsuzaki of the Tsugaru Channel Swimming Association and pro marathon swimmer.

"The wind around Tappi Misaki is making sounds, just like a dragon is flying in the sky. This area has a wind power generation plant. Swimmers have to understand that no matter what happens, they will face a strong wind and no one can guess how strong the wind will be on any day. This is why swimmers have to start swimming really fast in the beginning if they start on Tappi Misaki. If you think even pace, they may see DNF. 19.5 km may sounds easy. but all the swimmers who have swam in the Tsugaru Channel know it is hard."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association