adjective, noun - Tripod or tripod formation refers to the formation of a 3-person relay team in team pursuit open water swimming competitions. In a tripod formation, the lead swimmer is positioned slightly ahead of the 2 trailing swimmers in a tight pack in order to gain the advantage of drafting and navigating. The trailing swimmers position themselves on the left and right side of the lead swimmer and are generally not responsible for sighting or navigation while they are drafting.
Tripod vs. Arrow Formation
In the tripod formation, the 3 swimmers rotate positions throughout the open water swimming race so that the navigational and pacing responsibilities of the lead swimmer is shared among the 3 teammates. In the arrow formation, the lead swimmer remains in the lead and the trailing swimmers position themselves on the left and right side of the lead swimmer throughout the race.
The German team used the tripod formation during the team pursuit race at the World Championships.
Team Pursuit Formations
Tripod or rotating arrow - shaped like an arrow with occasional changes of positions among the 3 swimmers
Arrow - no change in the positions among the 3 swimmers
Beeline - swimmers draft directly behind one another throughout the race
Rotating beeline or peloton - swimmers draft directly behind one another throughout the race, occasionally rotating positions
Hybrid - a combination of one or more of the other drafting techniques and formations
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