In an update to an earlier story, at the pre-NCAA women’s championships coaches’ meeting, coaches were informed that they would be able to remove the relay fin, but with a catch: the fin can only be removed by a coach prior to the beginning of a relay event. Which means, if you want the advantage of doing a relay start without the fin on, then you’re going to lose the advantage of having the leadoff swimmer use the fin. Everyone we saw was practicing relay starts with the fin on before the beginning of the race, though with the rapidity of warmups, it’s possible that this was simply for logistics. Our guess, though, is that most teams will use the blocks for relay starts.
Update: in the first relay, South Carolina was the only team we noticed who totally removed their kickplate so far.