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In-the-water Relay Exchanges

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In-the-water relay exchanges are more common in masters meets than other federations. The rules for relay exchanges include some key differences between USA Swimming and USMS. With championship season upon us, it is a good idea to review the rules for relays that involve in-water starts.

Question: For relay in-water starts, the rulebook says the relay is disqualified if a swimmer loses touch with the wall before the preceding teammate touches. Does this mean that USMS does not allow the swimmer in default to go back and touch the wall after the incoming swimmer touches the wall?

Answer: If the swimmer starting in the water loses touch prior to the exchange, but corrects their position prior the incoming swimmer making the touch, this should not constitute an early take-off.

Per rule 101.7.3-F, if the swimmer loses contact with the wall and then the incoming swimmer touches the wall, the relay team shall be disqualified. While USA Swimming has specific wording that would allow the swimmer in default to correct their position after the touch, USMS does not have the corresponding wording. This is a key difference between USAS and USMS rules noted in the summary of rules differences in the appendix of the rule book.

Question: For in-water starts, it looks like USMS requires the swimmer to have one hand and one foot in contact with wall for individual events and the relay lead-off swimmer. USAS rules only say one hand. What about the 2nd, 3rd and 4th swimmers on relays with in-water starts?

Answer: The foot contact requirement is listed in the forward start rule in 101.1.2 and in the start commands in 103.8.5. We don't explicitly list this requirement in 101.7.3, however in 101.7.3-F, we say that the team of a swimmer whose feet have lost contact with the starting platform (ground, deck, or wall).....should be disqualified. Therefore, all relay swimmers starting in the water must have at least one foot in contact with the wall prior to the exchange, not just the lead off swimmer.

Furthermore, since the rule references the feet losing contact with the wall, the officials should look at the touch of the incoming swimmer and the feet of the outgoing swimmer. The outgoing swimmer could be in motion or remove a hand from the wall, but the feet cannot lose contact with the wall prior to the incoming swimmer touching the wall.

Question: USMS rules say that for freestyle events, the start can be forward or in-water backstroke starts. Just to make sure I have this right, that would also mean for a freestyle relay event, any of the relay swimmers could do an in-water backstroke start, correct?

Answer: There is no rule which would prohibit use of backstroke start during a freestyle relay exchange.

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