One way to make buoy courses more interesting...
Good grief, that was painful! Very entertaining to watch, however.
I love these kinds of things. Fun stuff. Bring back the golden age of marathon swimming, and add some new and creative events. We discussed this in this thread some time ago.
So I'm imagining a 100 or maybe 150 meter loop, with a referee on a SUP or kayak. Age groups of maybe 10 swimmers. The referee hangs out near the start/finish buoy, and politely taps (maybe with a pole with a tennis ball on the end?) the last swimmer for each of the first 7 laps. That leaves 3 swimmers to sprint it out the last lap.
With a short loop, like 100m, the races could be pretty quick, allowing for age group and sex divisions. Limit each one to 10 swimmers, or maybe more but the last two drop out each lap. I want to do this.
This could also be a fun open water swim group event.
When I used to race bikes, I participated in a criterium that had a "win and out" format. We rode for something like 35 minutes, then they rang a bell and the winner of the next lap won the race and got to quit. Everyone else had to do another lap for 2nd, 3rd etc. The course had a painful little hill at the end and I didn't want to repeat it any more times, so I managed to win that one. Kind of the reverse of what you described, but fun.
It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.