(not to you Jeff) Here is the take away that we all need to keep in mind. And I PREACH this to my athletes. Remember, comparisons are tough to do in triathlons. Year to year things change. Swims are nearly impossible to compare because of all the variables involved (measuring, currents, entries/exits). The weather plays an even more significant role in race outcome. Last year was nice and cool. Saturday was miserable. I went 2 minutes slower this year. I attribute 50% of that to the heat and humidity.
But at the end of the day, we all need to remember that everyone had to do the same course. So if it was 500 yards then it was 500 yards for everyone. Try to not get bogged down in making comparisons. I know we want to see quantifiable gains, but such comparisons are often worthless.
Really good stuff to read especially for a beginner like me. I guess the only reason I was even thinking about the distance was because if it was truly 400 yds then I really need to work on my swim above and beyond what I already do.
No worries. Even comparing open water to pools times are very difficult at the amateur stage. When you swim in a 25y pool, you have a chance to correct your form everytime you push off the wall. This immediately makes you a better swimmer. Your hips start out in the right position and your hands/arms generally have a better entry from the added speed. This is, in part, why some people fall apart when they swim in a 50m pool.
Open water swimming takes more strength. If you don't have a good body position then your hips will sink quickly so you have extra drag. Therefore, many athletes find themselves substantially slower (5-10s per 100) in OWS. I would have to look it up, but it might be interesting to see what the 1 mile open record is vs. pool times.
Just stick with it. It becomes easier the more you practice.