relay race is timed and there are six swimmers per team. At the
start of the race, each swimmer swims half-hour legs until all
team members have raced. Then each swimmer swims a 10-minute leg
until they cross the finish line. Every team has a dedicated
escort boat. The boat captain acts as the navigator for each team.
Swimmers compete in seven categories based on the ages and sexes
of the team members. The grand prize goes to the first team to
finish. It is a large, perpetual carved koa wood Duke Bowl. There
are other perpetual trophies that go to the winners in many of the
divisions. Swimmers on the top three teams in each division
receive impressive Hawaiian swim towels with their division and
place embroidered. Each swimmer also receives a custom-designed
The Kaanapali Beach Hotel is the
Maui Channel Swim headquarters. The hotel serves as the raceoint
and hosts the award banquet. This event is so popular that it has
never been formally advertised. The Maui Channel Swim is well run
and so much fun that many of the teams come back year after year
and enlist friends and fellow swimmers. There is always a great
rivalry between the Australian and American teams. What makes this
race so interesting is that the navigation and currents can be a
deciding factor. The fastest, strongest team does not always
The race course officially starts at
the pier at Club Lanai on the island of Lanai and ends on the
beach in front of the Kaanapali Beach Hotel on the island of Maui.
The distance between start and finish as "the bird flies" is
approximately 9.9 miles.
As noted, the actual distance swum
is longer depending
on currents, winds, etc. Each team is responsible for their
own navigation and, as
such, at various points during the race, escort boats of all
shapes and sizes dot the
horizon with everyone thinking they have the shortest route.
Depending on conditions, the fastest
teams finish in 3 to 4 hours. The race has a time limit of 8
hours and it is not uncommon that teams do not finish.