Sochi Swim Festival in Sochi, Russia
Wanted to do a quick read-out from this past weekend. 30 Sep-01 Oct in Sochi, Russia, there was an awesome swim festival put on by the great folks at the Champion's Cup: Series of Sports Competitions (Кубок Чемпионов Серия Спортивных Соревнований).
These wonderful folks put on swim events throughout Russia during the season, culminating in this (first) swim festival in the lovely seaside resort of Sochi. The swim festival had workshops and trainings as well as two days of swimming. Day one (Saturday) had competitions in a pool: 30- and 60-minute swims and a team relay of 3 x 15-minute swims. I didn't take part or go watch those, but I did hang out at the festival outdoor venue, which was nice.
Sunday was the open water swimming day. They had a 5.5k, a nautical miles, and a kilometer. With the kilometer swim they also had a 3 x 1000 team relay.
Two embassy colleagues and I signed up for OW swims. I did the 5.5k and they each did the nautical mile. All three of us together did the 3 x 1000 relay.
The open water part of the festival was expertly run. Registration was easy (see below*). Coordination of hotel was easy. Signing in day of, easy. Briefings were straight-forward, even with the strange questions that Russian swimmers ask. No problems at the start/finish, and the buoys were nice and large, and the swimming venue beautiful and clean.
I cannot recommend highly enough that if you find yourself in Russia, you take part in this or any of their events. Now, for the interesting parts with respect to non-Russians.
*We were the only non-Russians (or at least non-former Soviet citizens) taking part. For those without visas to Russia, that may be the biggest obstacle. Visas require you either know someone here (whether Russian or someone resident here) or you get a letter of invite from a hotel. That's not as onerous as it sounds; the latter requires that you get a reservation from a hotel and then the hotel issues you the letter. Getting the visa, though, takes a while, so you'd have to commit to a hotel early (~90 or more days). Visa issuance depends upon the relationship between your country and Russia.
Secondly, the organizers' website will not take foreign credit cards. That's not as bad as it sounds. If you contact the organizers (who know enough English to help you), and tell them your plans, they will allow you to register, as long as you pay when you show up. This is what happened to us, and they had no problem whatsoever with us signing up for 4 total events three months ago and not paying until the day prior when we showed up. We got the same swag bag as everyone else.
Bottom line: A great time was had by all. If you need any more info on this or any Russian swims, please PM me.