noun - The Mother Ship (or mothership is a large(r) watercraft that serves as the main escort boat during a solo marathon swim, marathon relay or marathon swimming competition. It can carry one or more smaller vessels such as a kayak. The Mother Ship often has the primary communication means on board and is usually accompanied by small(er) watercraft that is more maneuverable and can more safely reach the swimmers in the water.
The Mother Ship stayed at least 100 meters away from the swimmer who was escorted by kayakers and a small Boston Whaler.
The term mother ship dates back to the 19th century whaling trade when small, fast ships were used to chase and kill whales. The dead meat from several boats was then brought back to the larger, slower ship for processing and storage until the return to land. This model enabled a far more efficient method of whaling.
In many languages, such as Chinese, Finnish and Japanese the word mother ship refers to an aircraft carrier.
The mother ship concept was used in moon landings performed in the 1960's. Both the unsuccessful American 1962 Ranger landers and the successful Soviet 1966 Luna landers were unmanned spherical capsules ejected at the last moment from mother ships that had carried them to the Moon and crashed onto its surface. In the manned Apollo program, astronauts in the lunar module separated from the command module in lunar orbit, descended to the lunar surface, and returned to dock in a lunar orbit rendezvous with the command module once more for a ride home to Earth.