Wow, wouldn't you hate to be Ironman Asia Pacific right now. They just can't seem to get a swim leg at the moment. If it isn't rogue sharks at Busselton, it is killer algae in Taupo. Almost enough to make you feel just a wee bit sorry for them.
In reality the effects of these sequential swim cancellations isn't that significant. Very few people will have been at both Busselton and Taupo (although I do know a few) so it is unlikely to have been a big problem for many people. However, on paper it looks pretty bad, having two events suffer the same fate (for different reasons) in quick succession, it must be fairly frustrating for M-dot. While it isn't a good look, I don't think they will suffer too much buyer backlash though as most people are reasonable enough to realise the two cancellations are unrelated. As I discussed yesterday, the cancellation of two Busselton swims in a row would be a bigger concern for me if I was Ironman.
On top of all that, I think the race organisers of Taupo have handled this latest frustration pretty well. The organisers of the NZ race do have the luxury of time, ie they found out about the algae on Wednesday rather than on race morning and they have used that extra time to good effect. The notification I saw from the organisers yesterday demonstrated that they had a very clear plan for progressing the event, with a proper run-bike-run duathlon now planned. This extra time has meant that participants have time to adjust to the change and come to terms with it. Nobody will be standing around on race morning wondering whether to adjust their race plan and trying to re-calibrate their expectations. True a duathlon doesn't suit everyone and that will be frustrating for a lot of people, particularly all those people who have spent ages in the pool, but at least they have time to come to peace with that reality and get their heads back in the game.
The other thing that I think that Ironman has done well with respect to Taupo is they have made free event transfers available for anyone who doesn't want to race a duathlon. Ironman is usually pretty adverse to giving anything away, and so offering free race transfers is a big step for them, but I think it is a necessary one, and also a smart PR move. Post Busselton they offered everyone a $200 discount on their next race which is good, given that what happened was out of their control, but you are still required to enter another race, which some of my friends are reluctant to do at the moment. I think offering the free transfer is a nice sign of good faith from the organiser, particularly given their reputation for sometimes valuing the dollar above the athlete. Nicely done.
In the end this the lack of swim at Taupo is another situation where Ironman has been backed into a corner and really doesn't have any other choice. Given that situation I think they have handled it pretty well this time (they haven't always) and so while it isn't ideal they should be commended for being pro-active. Really not an ideal situation, but hopefully the affected athletes can make the most of it and still have a great day out. Even if they will be missing out on the best leg.