This year, due to FINA’s new cold water rules, the competitors wore full-body (i.e., down to the ankles and wrists) wetsuits for the second time [the first time was in Canada at the FINA Grand Prix event, the Traversée internationale du lac St-Jean in 2017].
But oddly enough, the neoprene times over the 10 km course this year were slower than all previous years without wetsuits. In some cases, the winning times of the top 3 swimmers – both male and female – significantly slower with wetsuits. Strange, but true – and understandable given the dynamic nature of the open water where one just never knows.
Alexander Studzinski, a veteran professional marathon swimmer, explains, “The first time wetsuits were used [in the 32 km Traversée du lac St-Jean], we easily set the course record in a wetsuit compared to a non-wetsuit swim. Secondly, in Setúbal, there are a lot of currents from the tides. So, last year was favorable currents with a winning time of 1:29 and this time, it was not. Setúbal races can vary from 1 hour 26 minutes to 2 hours 25 minutes.
Also, the Arena 9 is the only wetsuit broadly available which is on the FINA list. That’s why everyone swims in it.”