Race Preview: ÖTILLÖ, The Swimrun World Championship

ÖTILLÖ, The Swimrun World Championship is the crux of the swimrun season which will the best teams in the world go head to head down the Stockholm Archipelago. Further down the pack, teams have fought tooth and nail to pick up ranking points needed to qualify and are in for a sublime day of racing. 

160 teams are expected on the start line which is the 16th edition of the race. An epic journey awaits participants which crosses 24 islands with a whopping 46 transitions and a total course length of 70km. 

This year marks a first for ÖTILLÖ and indeed swimrun. All diesel powered boats are now fuelled with 100% biofuel, which in-turn reduces emissions by 90%. This hasn’t been easy, with only one commercial biofuel refuelling station on the entire archipelago, but it has worked well so far while keeping engines in excellent working order.

This is an industry leading change with Michael Lemmel, co-founder at ÖTILLÖ describing it as a ‘fantastic step forward’. Michael shares with us what to expect at this years championship.

How hard is the Swimrun World Championship?

A subjective question… but it will challenge teams to the max and is an enormous undertaking. Looking at it as a day of sport, it is certainly one the hardest in the world. The front markers are completely crushed when they cross the finish line, and the slowest on the course do it in almost double the time and are out dawn to dusk, a really tough day in the office.

How do athletes prepare for the World Champs?

Many will prepare by racing, others only focus on the World Championship (WC) with a year of training to make it there is the best possible condition. For example take two of the favourite teams: one has raced in every event (and won) and the other has not raced in any events and trained just for the WC – it should make for fascinating competition. 

What do you consider to be the centrepiece of the course?

The first swim is a brutal 1800 metres just as the sun is coming up on the horizon. A lot of people will just ‘feel fear’ as they enter and exit the water as they realise how huge their task ahead is. Later on in the race and after a marathon distance (40km-ish) of racing they will stand on the island of Ornö with 20km of running ahead which can also be quite daunting.

Mind over matter?

The mental challenges will be there throughout the day. On land, you can’t let your mind wander at all as the terrain can be technical and very difficult. Swimming is a chance to ‘relax’ and realise how far you have to go. You will really find out how well you get on with your mate as will be completely dependent on them.

Swimrun is natures sport. What example can it set?

We can keep being a voice for cleaning the Ocean. This is indeed one of the main purposes of the ÖTILLÖ race. Other races have been cancelled for drought conditions (low water levels in reservoirs) this year – awareness of our inland and ocean waters is imperative.  

For example, at ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Gothenburg, 200 local kids on one of the islands helped with cleaning the Ocean project. This influences the next generation while also highlighting how much rubbish is in our waters.

Finally for athletes hoping to compete in the WC this year or in future years, any advice?

Race with a smile! It is not everyday you get this chance to do this journey. Your result is secondary to enjoying the experience. Don’t stress too much, it has to be an enjoyable – you are doing it for the wonderful adventure and for the joy of being in nature with your partner.

The swimrun.com team will be bringing you live updates from the World Championship race, stay tuned on social!