- HOW AND WHEN CAN I SIGN UP FOR THE RACE?
- WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO QUALIFY FOR THIS SWIM?
- I WANT TO SWIM A RELAY, BUT I DON’T HAVE A PARTNER. CAN YOU HELP?
- WHY DID THE FEE INCREASE?
- HOW DO I FIND AN ESCORT BOAT?
- HOW MUCH DOES IT COST FOR THE ESCORT BOAT?
- WHAT ARE THE SWIM RULES?
- HOW DO I FEED AND WHAT SHOULD I EAT?
- HOW DO I TRAIN FOR THIS?
- WHY ISN’T THE SWIM THE SAME WEEKEND EVERY YEAR? WHY DO WE HAVE TO START SO EARLY?
- WHAT ARE YOUR SAFETY MEASURES?
- WHEN DO I KNOW WHEN TO CALL IT QUITS AND WHO DECIDES WHEN THE SWIM IS OVER?
- DO I NEED A KAYAKER?
- WHERE SHOULD MY FAMILY MEET ME? CAN THEY WATCH? CAN THEY VOLUNTEER?
- WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO SUPPORT THIS EVENT?
- MAY I BUY EXTRA T-SHIRTS FOR MY CREW AND FAMILY?
- WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE SWIM?
- WHERE SHOULD I PARK?
- WHERE DO I GO AND WHEN DO I NEED TO BE THERE?
- HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
- HOW DO I KNOW WHERE TO SWIM?
- I’M COMING IN FROM OUT OF TOWN. WHERE IS A GOOD PLACE TO STAY? WHERE SHOULD I EAT? WHAT SHOULD I SEE WHILE I’M IN TOWN?
1. How and when can I sign up for the race?
Our registration is a lottery format and is hosted by MOWSA. Sign up for the lottery opens at on March 11th and closes on March 14th. We can only accommodate 25 solo swimmers and 6 relays. We will post the registration link to the BLS home page as soon as it goes live.
To register, you need to have your anticipated crew members’ names ready on the day of the registration. You are permitted to change these individuals if necessary, but we need to have the names of your anticipated crew at the time of registration.
Once you are accepted to the swim, we will request biographical information and a photo of you to post on the website and share with the media.
2. What do I need to do to qualify for this swim?
To be qualified to compete in the Boston Light Swim, solo swimmers are required to have swum the BLS as a solo swimmer in the past two years OR show proof of a long distance, open-water swim of 2.4 miles or greater. This swim can be any open water swim event including the 2.4-mile swim component of an Ironman distance triathlon, the 4.4-mile Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, or any other organized open water swim event of 2.4 miles or more. The qualifying swim must have been completed within the past year and prior to the day of the event.
Relay swimmers will be required to show proof of a 1-mile or longer open water swim. Participation as a relay swimmer in the Boston Light Swim in the previous two years qualifies you for registration as a relay swimmer, but not a solo swimmer in the current BLS.
Every swimmer should be able to swim a mile in less than 37 minutes.
3. I want to swim a relay, but I don’t have a partner. Can you help?
We recommend that you post your interest on our Facebook page. Lots of past and aspiring Boston Light swimmers are part of that group, and you are likely to find an interested relay partner there.
4. Why did the fee increase?
In 2017, the fees for the swim will be $300 for solos and $550 for relays. This rise in cost over previous years was necessitated because we now have to cover our own insurance costs. We are also internalizing the lottery and registration process, as well as augmenting our safety program, which further increases our expenses. Despite this increase, the Boston Light Swim is still one of the least expensive marathon swims being offered in the United States today. We strive to keep costs down so that everyone who wants to can participate.
5. How do I find an escort boat?
Prospective BLS swimmers often fret about finding an escort pilot to support them during the swim. But don’t let that concern stop you from registering; there are lots of boaters in the area who are willing to help and you can start by calling one of the local yacht clubs listed below.
Some swimmers have also had success in the past by posting an ad on CraigsList. (Post your ad on Craigslist under Community > Events. You might also try listing your ad in the Events section under Gigs or Jobs.)
We also encourage you to post your request on the BLS Facebook page. If you’ve done all that and still can’t find a boat on your own, we will contact boaters who have assisted in the past and assign you one. But please make every effort to find a boat, as we cannot guarantee that a boat will be available for us to assign.
Local Yacht Club Contact Information:
- Columbia Yacht Club: (617) 269-9831
- South Boston Yacht Club: http://www.southbostonyc.com, (617) 268-6132
- Boston Harbor Yacht Club: http://bostonharboryc.com (617)-269-5641
- Dorchester Yacht Club: http://www.dorchesteryachtclub.com, (617) 436-1002
- Old Colony Yacht Club: http://oldcolonyyc.org/wp/, (617) 436-0513
6. How much does it cost for the escort boat?
Though the boaters are volunteers assisting you because they want to help, they will be devoting a significant chunk of time to help you achieve your goal. We suggest a $350 donation to the escort volunteer. This includes compensation for the boater’s time, wear and tear on the boat, and gas.
7. What are the swim rules?
By and large, the Boston Light Swim is governed by generally accepted practices for marathon swims, or English Channel rules. These include:
- No wetsuits for inclusion in the official results
- No fast skins or high tech suits; please only wear basic textile suits
- No intentional contact with the boat or another person
- Use of only one bathing cap (one will be provided to you and for safety/visibility reasons, you must wear the cap we give you)
- Use of only one textile suit that does not:
- extend onto the shoulder
- extend below the knees (jammers are OK)
- provide buoyancy or heat retention
Feeding is permitted (and encouraged), and the application of anti-chaffing substances such as zinc, Vaseline, or Channel grease are allowed. (Check with your boater about whether or not these potentially messy substances are permitted on his/her boat and plan accordingly.)
All swimmers must swim alongside their guide boat. You WILL be disqualified and removed from the race if you are observed swimming behind the boat. This is a safety requirement. Swimmers must keep within 10 to 20 feet of the port or starboard side of the boat. Your boater will be made aware of these rules, too.
All swimmers must be 18 years of age or older.
Rules specific to relay teams
Relay teams (which may be comprised of 2, 3, or 4 swimmers) are governed by the same attire and general rules above, and are permitted to use a ‘helter skelter’ approach to their swims, meaning that swimmers are permitted to switch out as frequently as they want. You may swim in any order you want (and are welcome to mix it up throughout the swim), for any length of distance or time. The only set rule is that your team may not have more than one swimmer in the water at a time, so the swimmer in the water must exit the water before the next swimmer enters the water. Relay teams are encouraged to finish the race as a team (all together across the finish line).
8. How do I feed and what should I eat?
If you have to ask, you may not be ready for a big swim like the Boston Light Swim. If you are new to long distance swimming, we recommend you do your research and learn the ropes before attempting a difficult swim like the BLS. The Marathon Swimmer’s Forum is a great resource for current and aspiring swimmers and the CS&PF lists excellent nutrition information on their website. If you have a specific question regarding feeding, contact BLS training liaison Elaine Howley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. How do I train for this?
Again, if you have to ask, you’re probably not ready for this swim, but we love that you’re thinking about taking the plunge and encourage you to learn, train, and join us in the future. To get you started in long distance swimming, here are some resources you might want to check out:
- Websites and Forums:
If you have a specific question regarding training, BLS training liaison Elaine Howley may be able to help. Contact her at email@example.com.
10. Why isn’t the swim the same weekend every year? Why do we have to start so early?
The swim is typically held on a Saturday in August, but the exact date and time changes from year to year depending on the tide. We time the start of the swim to coincide with the incoming tide so swimmers gain the benefit of tidal assistance during the entire swim. We have already scheduled the swims through 2020, so you can plan ahead.
11. What are your safety measures?
We strive to make the BLS the safest race you’ll ever swim, and that requires a lot of planning, volunteer assistance, and cooperation from swimmers and their crews.
The first line of defense during the swim is your guide boat. Each solo swimmer and each relay team must have its own boat to assist during the swim. No boat, no swim. We also have at least two “roving” safety boats on the course during the swim. Trained volunteers staff these boats and know what to look for and how to help if a swimmer runs into trouble.
Your crew is also a vital part of the safety plan. They should monitor you closely for the entirety of the swim to look for signs of hypothermia, the most common reason swimmers need to pull out of the Boston Light Swim. Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slurred speech, claw-like hands that will not relax, and an inability to follow directions or answer simple questions. Hypothermia is a very serious condition that requires medical attention. Your crew should pull you from the water and radio for help if you display signs of hypothermia.
We also register the swim with the United States Coast Guard, which sends a boat and emergency personnel to monitor the course. They also broadcast information about the swim to other recreational boaters in the area to make them aware of the swim.
In addition, we have Emergency Medical Technicians on the beach to assist swimmers upon the completion of the swim.
We will be enforcing cutoff times along the course as part of our safety procedures.
Swimmers must be at:
- Rainsford Island (42.314433, -70.952067; +42° 18′ 51.96″, -70° 57′ 7.44″) within 2 hours of starting the swim
- Long Island (42.309623, -70.974574; +42° 18′ 34.64″, -70° 58′ 28.47″) within 3 hours
- Thompsen Island (42.322267, -70.998743; +42° 19′ 20.16″, -70° 59′ 55.47″) within 4 hours
- At the finish (42.32862, -71.033295; +42° 19′ 43.03″, -71° 1′ 59.86″) within 5 hours.
(GPS coordinates are in both decimal and degrees/minutes/seconds)
We reserve the right to pull you from the race at these pre-designated points if you are not swimming quickly enough to meet these cutoff times, but will review each situation on a case-by-case basis. The aim is not to penalize slower swimmers, but rather to ensure everyone’s safety.
12. When do I know when to call it quits and who decides when the swim is over?
There are many times and reasons to pull out of a long distance swim, and it’s important that you are aware of what some of these situations are and what to look out for. In the Boston Light Swim, hypothermia is the biggest threat to the swimmer’s successful completion of the race. In recent years, the water temperature out by the lighthouse has been as low as 58 degrees Fahrenheit, which is very cold for most people. Your crew must monitor you during the swim for signs of hypothermia and pull you out if you have trouble.
Swimmers sometime have problems with shoulder pain, cramping, seasickness, or another medical issue and may have to be removed from the water if they cannot continue. Your crew typically makes the decision to pull you in these instances, but the swimmer may also end the swim.
If inclement weather or conditions suddenly arise, you may have to leave the water then, too. Your guide boat pilot has the final say on whether conditions are unsafe and you must follow their instructions if they tell you the swim is over.
In the event of lightning, we will terminate the swim. All boaters should pull their swimmers and drive them to the Boston Harbor Yacht Club for drop-off.
The BLS staff also reserve the right to terminate a swimmer’s race if we believe a swimmer is experiencing a health issue or if we observe any safety issues or rule infractions.
13. Do I need a kayaker?
In the past, we have allowed swimmers to have a kayaker as a secondary safety support measure. However, a kayaker may not be your primary support and we typically do not recommend the use of a kayaker as the logistics of getting the kayak out to the start can be tricky, and the extra vessels on the course could be problematic in the event of an emergency.
14. Where should my family meet me? Can they watch? Can they volunteer?
Yes! Your family can watch the finish of the swim or volunteer to help with the event. We can always use more volunteers. Please contact Greg O’Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to volunteer.
We encourage swimmers to have their families meet them at the finish to celebrate your big accomplishment. The race ends at the L Street Beach at the Curley Community Center on Columbia Road in South Boston. Please come on down and cheer on the finishers. The fastest swimmers typically finish about two-and-a-half hours after the start, and the slowest swimmers will be finishing about five hours after the finish. We encourage you to arrive early to see the exciting finish and cheer on all the swimmers.
15. What’s the best way to support this event?
Volunteering to assist us on the day of the swim or to help set up and clean up at the pre-race briefing and dinner on Friday is the best way to help. It’s also the best way to see the event up close. If you volunteer and you are not swimming in the event this year you will be able to pre-register for next year’s swim before the lottery opens. If you’d like to volunteer, please contact Greg O’Connor at email@example.com.
16. May I buy extra t-shirts for my crew and family?
Yes, we will have T-shirts available for purchase on the race day.
17. What happens after the swim?
We’re glad you asked! We hope you’ll stick around to cheer on all the finishers as they come ashore. The M Street beach is a private, walled beach. Please feel free to stay until it closes at 3:00pm. After the swim is over, we will head to the famous L Street Tavern (seen in the film Good Will Hunting) a few blocks away for a well-deserved beer and some laughs. We hope you’ll join us to celebrate your success!
18. Where should I park?
On-street parking is typically not a problem on the morning of the swim. You can park on Columbia Road all day without issue, but please pay careful attention to posted parking restrictions; some of the areas are designated as “Resident Parking” only and if you do not have a South Boston resident sticker, you will be ticketed and possibly towed. Instead, look for signs designating “Visitor Parking.” Parking on the Friday night before the swim when you arrive for the mandatory safety briefing and pre-race dinner may be trickier, as there is a two-hour limit on most of those visitor spaces after 6pm. We urge you to just pay attention to the signs and move your car as necessary.
19. Where do I go and when do I need to be there?
We hold a mandatory pre-race briefing meeting for all swimmers at the Curley Community Center beginning at 4pm on the Friday before the race. We will send out an email confirming the time and location prior to the event. You MUST be at the meeting to swim in the race the next day. This goes for relay swimmers, too; all members of your relay team must be in attendance. Everyone who will be swimming in the race MUST be at the briefing. No meeting, no swim, no exceptions.
After the meeting concludes, we will walk a couple blocks east to the Boston Harbor Yacht Club for the pre-race dinner. You are strongly encouraged to attend so you can meet the other participants and learn about the history of the swim, but the dinner is not a requirement. The dinner typically concludes about 8pm so you have time to get home or to your hotel to get some rest.
On race day, you must be at the Boston Harbor Yacht Club two hours BEFORE the designated swim start time. You must check-in when you arrive and be marked with your race number. Your boater will meet you at the BHYC dock where you will load up and motor out to the lighthouse. Don’t be late.
We will send emails ahead of race day indicating exactly what time you need to be at the BHYC on race morning.
20. How long will it take?
The Boston Light Swim takes anywhere from two-and-a-half to five hours depending on your pace. Occasionally we have a very fast swimmer who finishes close to two hours. There is a five-hour time limit on the course.
21. How do I know where to swim?
We provide all the swimmers and boaters with GPS coordinates of the course. We recommend that your boater set the course and you aim to stay with them, keeping in mind that you are required to swim along the side of the boat and may not swim in front of or behind the boat. There is a detailed description and map of the course on the website and you will be provided with a course map.
22. I’m coming in from out of town. Where is a good place to stay? Where should I eat? What should I see while I’m in town?
Boston is an amazing city with lots of attractions and we’re proud to be locals. For those of you who aren’t, welcome! We have lots of recommendations for places to see, stay, and eat.
Because the swim and associated events take place in South Boston, the list of hotels, restaurants and pubs below are limited to South Boston. But should you choose to venture further, you won’t be disappointed— there are many more wonderful places to eat, drink, and sleep throughout the city.
Doubletree Club Hotel Boston Bayside
240 Mt. Vernon Street
Boston, MA 02125
The Doubletree is located about 1 mile south of the finish line, just across Dorchester Bay. Rooms typically go for about $144/night.
Holiday Inn Express Boston Hotel
69 Boston Street
Boston, MA 02125
This hotel is located about 1 mile from the finish, near Route 93. Standard rooms cost about $144/night.
Courtyard Boston-South Boston
63 R Boston Street
Boston, MA 2125
The Courtyard is located about 1 mile from the finish, near Route 93. Standard rooms cost $160/night.
Boston is famous for its seafood, and you have to try the Barking Crab.
88 Sleeper Street
Boston, MA 02210-1226
149 P Street (between 6th Street and Columbia Road)
South Boston, MA
15 Fish Pier Street West (between Northern Ave & Trilling Way)
South Boston, MA 02210
LTK Bar & Kitchen (Part of Legal Seafood)
225 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
L Street Tavern
658 E 8th St (195 L St), South Boston, MA
The world famous L Street Tavern? is just up the street from the finish line. You may remember it as the hangout featured in the movie “Good Will Hunting.” A group of us will head to the “L” after the swim to enjoy some beers and good company.
306 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
Harpoon Brewery churns out lots of tasty Boston beers right here in South Boston. You can take a guided tour followed by a tasting on the weekends:
- Saturday 11:30 AM to 4:30 PM (starting every half hour)
- Sunday 12:00 noon to 3:00 PM (starting every hour)
Tours last about one hour and cost $5, which includes a souvenir glass. A portion of fee goes to Harpoon Helps, Harpoon’s charitable foundation.
As for the sights, Boston is known for its historical places and there are tons of things to do, but we recommend you try the following for an authentic Boston tourist experience:
- Visit Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market
- Walk the Freedom Trial
- Head over to Charlestown and go aboard the oldest commissioned vessel in the world, the USS Constitution
- Climb up the Bunker Hill Monument
- Take a Duck Tour
- Visit the New England Aquarium
- Take a boat taxi out to the Boston Harbor Islands, a national park; these are the islands you swim past, so go explore them
- Visit Fort Independence on Castle Island just down the street from the finish