Inconsistent Rules in Marathon Swimming

evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
edited April 14 in General Discussion
MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming



Scott Zornig (president of the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association) just published this opinion piece in the latest SBCSA newsletter. I thought this would be a good "forum" to discuss & debate the issues he raises. Please note: Scott's views are his own and do not necessarily represent those of myself or other SBCSA board members.

Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts! :)



The Inconsistencies in Marathon Swimming
by Scott Zornig, SBCSA President

Marathon swimming is an amazing sport that tests the limits of human endurance like few other athletic endeavors. I would put marathon swimming right alongside the Tour de France, ultra marathons, free diving, mountain climbing and the Iditarod. Marathon swimming includes long distances, cold water, unpredictable currents, large waves, darkness, predators and plenty of risk, which uniquely challenges a person both physically and mentally.

As wonderful as the sport is, it has always bothered me that the sanctioning organizations have not established universal marathon swimming rules which govern all marathon swims. The lack of uniformity has created an inconsistent sport from lake to lake, channel to channel, sea to sea. Can you imagine if baseball or soccer were played differently in each region or country?

Let me ask you this…How can a swim be considered a success under one organization while the same swim under another organization would not be recognized? Better yet, how can a swim done in the same water years before the existence of an organization be ratified, yet today, the identical swim would not meet the organizations current standards and result in disqualification? How can a sanctioning organization in an area known for extremely cold water, large predators and numerous attacks disallow electronic shark devices which might protect a swimmer from a possible encounter, but allow neoprene caps which protect the swimmer from hypothermia? How can a swimmer be permitted to exit the water in the middle of the swim due to lightning or an alleged predator sighting, and then allowed to return and finish? How can people be inducted in to the IMSHOF who have not followed the most basic and sacred rules of marathon swimming? Why do we not have unanimous agreement between the governing bodies on what constitutes a legal swimsuit? Why have the sanctioning organizations not even agreed on what the minimum distance of a marathon swim is (i.e., 10 km, 10 miles, 20 km, 20 miles)?

It is no wonder why there is so much confusion inside and outside our sport on what constitutes a true marathon swim. Of course, it makes matters worse when individuals make up their own rules and label it a marathon swim.

There are two schools of thought regarding the rules in marathon swims. Some will argue that marathon swims are different in various parts of the world so rules should vary according to conditions and elements. This group believes that one only needs to satisfy the rules of the sanctioning organization for the swim to count.

On the other hand, the hardliners believe that the sport should be consistent. The same set of rules should apply to everyone and it is up to each swimmer to train and prepare for whatever a swim yields. A swim in the Cook Strait for example, should be conducted according to the same set of rules as a swim in the English or Catalina Channel and vice versa. If the water is cold, so what! You wear the same costume whether you are swimming a marathon in the icy waters of Alaska or the tepid channels in Hawaii. Is the area known for sharks? Is the water swarming with Jelly Fish? The hardliners say it does not matter if you are swimming in Cape Town, Lake Tahoe, the Caribbean or the Dead Sea; the same set of rules should apply to every marathon organization and swimmer and must be followed for the swim to be recognized…whatever those universal rules are!

I prefer one set of rules for all swims and swimmers, but it would mean that the governing organizations around the world must meet, put aside all differences and unify. This is easier said than done and would involve give-and-take from every organization. It would require each organization to amend rules, but would result in a much stronger, uniform sport.

So where do the sanctioning committees agree and what are the differences? The below list should give you a pretty good idea as it pertains to solo marathon swims. Please understand I am not suggesting what the rules should be nor would I say the SBCSA’s rules are necessarily the correct ones. The SBCSA has a few rules I would change tomorrow if it was solely my decision.

Agreement between marathon sanctioning organizations

A) Universally allowed by all sanctioning marathon organizations

1) Skin Lubricant
2) Sunscreen
3) One silicone or latex cap
4) Goggles
5) Ear Plugs
6) Nose Clips
7) Glow sticks
8) Painkillers and anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen,
Aspirin, Naproxen
9) Caffeine
10) Food
11) One porous swimsuit which does not retain heat,
provide buoyancy, compress or improve speed.
12) Incidental contact with support boat/crew
13) GPS and Navigational systems
14) Any type of boat as an escort (i.e., row boat verses motorized)

B) Universally disallowed by sanctioning marathon organizations. (Note: some organizations will allow swimmers to use select items in an “assisted” or special category.)

1) Drafting
2) Fins
3) Booties
4) Headphones
5) Gloves
6) Paddles
7) Shark cages
8) Netting
9) Wetsuits
10) Face Guards
11) More than two caps
12) Physical contact (i.e., assistance in and out of water)
13) Rest on support vehicle or kayak
14) Performance enhancing drugs

Disagreement between marathon sanctioning organizations

1) Neoprene/thermal caps and/or caps with chin straps
2) Two swim caps
3) Electronic shark deterrent systems
4) Touch starts and finishes verses “clearing water”
5) Exiting water for safety reasons and resuming swim (i.e., shark sighting or lightning)
6) Rash guards
7) Compression swimsuits
8) Stinger suits which protect against jelly fish
9) Suits which extend below the knee, above the naval and over the arms for men
10) Suits which extend below the knee and over the arms for women
11) Pace Swimmer

There are 10 marathon sanctioning organizations in the United States and approximately 20 in other countries around the world. In my opinion, it would be advantageous for these 30 sanctioning organizations to unify our sport for the following reasons:

First, our sport becomes more robust if our rules are consistent and well defined. It gives us one loud voice saying the same thing verses many soft voices differing on what qualifies as a marathon swim. Secondly, when a swim takes place in a non-governed area, a united organization could either bless the swim as having been done according to internationally recognized rules or declare it a “non-swim” or an “assisted swim”. Thirdly, everyone would play by the same set of rules which mean less people will be interpreting or making up rules for themselves. Finally, we make it easier for the outside world to understand the difference between a marathon swim verses an assisted endeavor or incomplete swim.

On a side note, one of my pet peeves is when the new term “adventure swim” is used to describe a marathon distance swim which is not done according to traditional marathon swimming rules. While I appreciate that some are finally making an effort to distinguish themselves from true marathon swimmers, I think the term “adventure swimmer” is misleading. A swim is either a “marathon swim” (done according to the rules of the marathon swimming organizations) or an “assisted swim” (meaning the swimmer was helped across the water). In my opinion, an example of an adventure swim is Lynne Cox conquering the Bering Strait or Captain Matthew Webb attempting to navigate the whirlpool rapids below Niagara Falls. “Adventure swims” are endeavors shorter than a marathon, but are still done with the basics…suit, cap, goggles and skin lubricant….no toys allowed!

This summer, Diana Nyad and Penny Palfrey will be attempting to swim from Cuba to Florida. If either is successful, it could go down as the greatest swim ever completed. I understand they will not be using shark cages, but may employ electronic shark shields and suits which are specially designed to withstand the sting of a Jelly fish. It is a shame that this endeavor would be recognized by some organizations, but not others. If they are successful, all organizations together should be celebrating their accomplishment or denouncing it based upon mutual rules.

Unfortunately, sanctioning organizations tend to think and care about their own body of water. Most do not concern themselves with global marathon swimming. Our voices have been quiet outside our respective organizations. We do not meet, rarely talk to each other and have done a poor job uniting our sport. Most sanctioning organizations do not even have representation on the selection committee of the IMSHOF (International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame).

I believe the solution is simple; A committee should be formed which is made up of every marathon sanctioning organization with a desire to unify the sport. If there are 30 organizations worldwide, then 30 representatives should be on this committee and new seats should be created as new sanctioning organizations are formed. This committee’s charter would be to unify and protect the sport. Members would vote on rule changes or additions to the sport such as new technology. The existence of this committee would serve to educate the world on what is a marathon swim. Perhaps this committee could even have a voice in nominating and selecting future hall of fame members as well. If you really want to think outside the box, this committee could have annual marathon swimming awards and recognition. A committee made up of every marathon sanctioning organization in the world would only serve to strengthen our sport.

If you agree, then please let the various marathon swimming organizations know your feelings. Perhaps a tidal wave of comments from marathon swimmers will convince the more influential sanctioning organizations of the importance of unity. The strongest marathon swimming organizations would not only have to “buy in”, but drive this. It almost would have to start with support from the big three due to their size, strength, history and reputation.

I think finding common ground is good for our sport. It allows us to leave a well-defined, established, respected sport for future generations. It allows out sport to be understood by all. It enables us to define marathon swimming in parts of the world where there are no sanctioning organizations. It enables us to recognize only those who have done true marathon swims.

We have a special sport that is becoming more popular by the minute, but lack of agreement weakens it. We need unification. We must draw a line somewhere in the sand before the beach completely erodes!

Comments

  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Charter Member

    On a side note, one of my pet peeves is when the new term “adventure swim” is used to describe a marathon distance swim which is not done according to traditional marathon swimming rules. While I appreciate that some are finally making an effort to distinguish themselves from true marathon swimmers, I think the term “adventure swimmer” is misleading. A swim is either a “marathon swim” (done according to the rules of the marathon swimming organizations) or an “assisted swim” (meaning the swimmer was helped across the water).

    Give me a break! So if you're not following the rules of marathon swimming, you should be forced to call your sport by a crappy name? As outlined by marathon swimmers?

    That's like the NFL asking the Arena Football League to change its name to Wall-Confined Non-Football Played by People Who Did Not Make the NFL.
  • bobswimsbobswims Charter Member
    There is much I could say in response to Scott's article, but I think he overlooks the threshold question. In it he states: "Marathon swimming is an amazing sport that tests the limits of human endurance like few other athletic endeavors. I would put marathon swimming right alongside the Tour de France, ultra marathons, free diving, mountain climbing and the Iditarod."

    But before we examine the issues he raises we should ask whether we want the sport to be heavily regulated by third party governing bodies and governments as the Tour de France is, or defined by the community of participants as mountaineering is. There is no right answer to this question, but the answer has profound implications for the sport.

    (I originally posted this on Facebook)
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    WaterGirl said:

    Give me a break! So if you're not following the rules of marathon swimming, you should be forced to call your sport by a crappy name? As outlined by marathon swimmers?

    I agree. While I support efforts to make clear what marathon swimming is and isn't, I don't think we need to be defining other people's sports for them. If folks who want to swim with wetsuits (fins, shark cages, etc.) want to frame their activity in a positive light by using the term "adventure swimming" - that's great. It's possible some who begin as adventure swimmers will decide to become marathon swimmers at some point. Everyone wins.
  • I don't see this as a real issue. Other sports have fairly wide variance as to what is legal on a case-by-case basis. In ultramarathoning (running), for example, some races allow no pacers, some allow pacers for part of the race and some allow pacers for the whole race. Regardless, you are allowed to call yourself an ultramarathoner. Ditto with the marathon and downhill courses, flat courses and altitude-hindered courses, etc. Bringing together the sanctioning bodies may sound like a good idea, but will they agree? Even if so, that group has no legal mandate as a governing body which means that anyone can put on their own race with their own rules and call it marathon swimming. I said elsewhere that I think a categorization system for swims being defined by a swimming governing body which at least has legal recognition as well as the ability to deny insurance coverage might be a quicker way to get everyone in agreement. (Or not. Face it, open water people are nice but in terms of agreement it's like trying to herd cats - very wet cats.)

    -LBJ
    "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T.S. Eliot
  • david_barradavid_barra Charter Member
    edited July 2012
    evmo said:

    I agree. While I support efforts to make clear what marathon swimming is and isn't, I don't think we need to be defining other people's sports for them. If folks who want to swim with wetsuits (fins, shark cages, etc.) want to frame their activity in a positive light by using the term "adventure swimming" - that's great. It's possible some who begin as adventure swimmers will decide to become marathon swimmers at some point. Everyone wins.

    EVERY Marathon Swim is an adventure... but the inverse is not true
    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member
    Hmm..I'm not sure what I think. I am a lower case-L libertarian, and thus immediately am against any sort of increased governance. Yet...I like the idea of having a base definition of marathon swimming, such as "X distance or farther" and "suit, cap, goggles, that's it."

    Got to think on this one.
  • Water Girl,

    Please allow me to remind you that up until several months ago, people were doing "assisted swims" and calling them Marathon swims. Evan will likley tell you that it took an article called "What's wrong with marathon swimming" to begin to change the tide. I do appreciate that "assisted swimmers" are attempting to finally distinquish themselves, but I do not think adventure swimmer is the appropriate term. The word adventure is used to describe many of the swims Lynn Cox has done which were incredibly challenging, but not necessarily a marathon distance. I don't think that Lynn Cox, arguabley one of the greatest marathon and adventure swimmers ever, should be lumped together with people who choose to use aids instead of doing the necessary training.

    I am surprised you think "assisted swimming" is a "crappy name." It is the name which most accurately reflects what people do when they are helped through the water with artifical aids. It is a form of swimming, but it is "assisted swimming". Why is there a need to hide or mask this endeavor using a name which is descriptive of something "better" than what they have really done? If I was to strap a 20hp motor on my bicycle and enter the Tour de France, besides being disqualfied, would I be a adventure cyclist or an assisted cyclist?

    Our sport was started with ear plugs, cap, suit, goggles, brandy, food and an escort boat. Of course, these basics provide us minimal assistence, but this is the foundation of marathon swimming. These are the basics needed to to attempt any marathon swim. If people add to this, then marathon swimming becomes a different sport. Since everything is so conveluted already, we must continually protect and distinquish marathon swimming. We need to make our sport easy to understand by both people inside and outside of our sport.
  • dc_in_sfdc_in_sf San FranciscoMember
    Hi Scott,

    Clearly someone who swims the length of Lake Tahoe in a wetsuit is not performing the same activity as a toddler in the lake with a floatation device. Yet these are both "assisted swims" by your definition. It seems not unreasonable for the practioners of the former to want to distinguish themselves from the latter.

    The term "Marathon Swimming" is not without faults, not all "Marathon Swims" are 26.2 miles, and they clearly do not follow the rules of Marathon running, so there is an element of marketing involved in the use of the term.

    If "Marathon Swimming" was called "Long Distance Open Water Swimming" then you could make an argument for labelling the above Tahoe swim "Long Distance Open Water Assisted Swimming" but then we are back to confusing folk since those terms are more similiar than different (and ungainly to boot).

    Given that the different "Marathon Swimming" bodies don't have agreement on what it actually is, it would seen odd to be worrying about what folk with wetsuits or flippers are calling what they do, as long as it is not "Marathon Swimming".
    http://notdrowningswimming.com - open water adventures of a very ordinary swimmer
  • I think maybe some are forgetting that the purpose of my article was to suggest that we should seek unification in marathon swimming for the long term health of our sport. When there are differences between organizations as there are, it opens for the door for people to interpret rules and/or do whatever they desire and call it a marathon swim.

    Since the terminology is all over the place, I am simply saying that we need to tighten things up a bit to further distinquish and strenghten our sport. Of course, everything falls under "open water swimming" where we have "Marathon swimming" (Generally distances of 10 miles or more following CSA rules), "Ice Swimming"(Swimming in water less than 41 degrees or 5 degrees celcius following CSA rules), "Adventure or extreme Swimming" (extreme swims in distances less than 10 miles following CSA rules), and "Stage swimming" (swims down rivers or across great bodies of water following CSA rules). Finally, there are people that may decide to do swims in any of the above catagories with the help of artifical props. This is called "assisted swimming". Please suggest another term which more accurately describes their endeavor and I will be glad to use it?

    In the meantime, lets call a spade a spade and concentrate on globally uniting marathon swimming so we can leave a well defined sport for our children and their children to enjoy.
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    edited July 2012
    The thing is, when marathon swimming started (Matthew Webb), it was simply a matter of swimming. Then around the 1950s the basic rules of suit, hat, goggles, grease, escort boat, kind of stuck and formed the foundation protocols. In England (until recently), swims followed these protocols and attracted around 30 to 50 swimmers per event.

    Now some races attract a few hundred swimmers because the foundation protocols are relaxed and allow wet suits and no longer insist on individual escort boats. Is that progress?

    Also, swimmers are adding additional elements to swimming that Captain Webb could never have imagined and which the foundation protocols fail to accommodate. Are these swimmers to be discounted? Or should they be thought of as pioneers? You simply cannot undertake a marathon swim in the Antarctic, goodness, people can hold their breath longer than a person can swim at such places. Lets not poo poo those efforts, nor should we class them unworthy of being marathon swims if additional equipment or methods are required to enable them to be undertaken.

    If marathon swims insist on a handful of agreed protocols, then marathon swimming will relegate itself to races and one off swims. ie if the swim can be started and finished in one effort, it counts. All other swims are less worthy.

    I do not believe that should be the case.

    What is a Marathon Swim anyway? Is it the same as Open Water Swimming or Long Distance Swimming? Is it just the American way of saying the same thing?

    In England in the 90s, we were all happily just swimming. Then the ASA came along and started getting in on the act and usurped the BLDSA to a degree. Now the triathletes and wetsuit swimmers eclipse us all.

    We are though, all swimming a very long way. Some are racing..............I agree with the original post, the racers should have identical and pure protocols, as should the traditional courses.

    But lets not try to suggest that an Open Water swimmer is a lesser mortal because they wear mittens or socks in their river swims in the winter or that Ben Fogle, Ben Lacomte, Martin Strel, Dave Cornthwaite etc are unworthy because they deem their swims require more than the protocols allow.

    As for new terms: 1) Un escorted Swimming. 2) Swimming Journeys. 3) Extreme Swimming.

    And just to put a spanner in the works, the accepted form of swimming protocols ie CSA or BLDSA rules, could be argued are the most weak of all the ways a marathon swim can be achieved. Goodness me, any swimmer can simply give up and get into an escort boat. In my eyes, that equates to having a helicopter at base camp for all Everest climbers. Maybe marathon swimming should ban the greatest assistance all swimmers tend to benefit from, the escort boat and safety cover. So lets add Solo Swimming as a new term.
  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member
    edited July 2012
    I'm pretty sure FINA defines marathon swim as a 10K. I can tell you that the 5K and 10K I have swum in Europe have been called Half-Marathon and Marathon, respectively. FINA is a world governing body for swimming, is it not? That should suffice at least for our agreeing on 10K being the definition of a marathon swim.
    http://www.fina.org/H2O/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=913&Itemid=577
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    10 K is far too short.
  • WalterWalter Member
    I would like to see a worldwide standard for open water swimming to which most of the major channel associations and other governing organizations are agreed. I agree with ScottZornig that it would be good for the sport. I wouldn’t like to see folks being prevented from completing swims using more or less than the approved assistance (e.g., w/ wetsuit or w/o escort boat, respectively), but as far as I know, that isn’t currently a major issue, so long as one is willing to put up with a little disdain from the local sanctioning organization for so-called bootlegging. I would really prefer that we didn’t call our open water swimming “marathon swimming” though. I’m with IronMike on this, I think. I’m an open water swimmer, perhaps a channel swimmer, but not a marathon swimmer. Thanks to FINA, that’s someone who trains for and races the 10K.


    As a really long aside, I agree with Haydn that 10K is far too short. I would have preferred that FINA had designated the 25K as the marathon distance, even though the 10K is much closer to the marathon run in terms of race time. In my opinion the 10K does not represent the same level of effort for a fit open water swimmer as an actual marathon does for a fit road runner. 20K would be really great; but among the more regularly raced distances, 25K would have gotten my vote. Having said that, I don’t think the marathon swim would be in the Olympics were it even as long as 15K. So FINA probably made the right choice for themselves and for most swimmers, just not for me.
    I'm not very popular around here; but I'm huge in Edinburgh!
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited July 2012
  • Not having completed a marathon distance myself (of any of the definitions), my opinion is less relevant, but I'm with Gords.

    ..... and now that I have the 5k done and am looking for a new signature I might steal his line
    "Just eat your damn donut and shut the hell up"

    Classic !!
    I tried to convince myself, but, orange flavour electrolyte, mixed with hot chocolate,
    tastes nothing like Terry's Chocolate Orange ....
  • WalterWalter Member
    Discussing the merits of, and suggesting a process for, establishing standards for so-called marathon swims that would be accepted by existing organizations does not strike me as whining. Authoring a blog post to complain about the supposed fact that other parties are complaining about what some third parties are saying, while at the same time claiming to not care how others are describing what they (and by extension oneself) are doing, seems more like whining. It’s also ironic.

    I don’t begrudge any person the opportunity to influence what becomes the most widely understood definition of a term that person uses to describe what that person is doing. But I usually intend for my words to be understood. So the notion that it should be of no concern to me the way others use those same words is preposterous. The lexicographer is an empirical scientist, as Quine noted. We are producing the data, some more self-consciously than others. Eat your donut or don’t. I’m not forcing anyone.
    I'm not very popular around here; but I'm huge in Edinburgh!
  • "Anarchy is a valid form of government." - Jean-Paul Satre

    The more I think about it, the less I want some form of standardization in the long distance swimming arena. (exception: Safety standards.) Here's why: I started distance running in 1969 (I'm OLD), which was before the 1st so-called "running boom" of the mid-1970's. Up until the boom, each race was often unique WRT distance, course type, danger, etc. As a result, most races had their own charm or sometimes lack thereof. After the boom, as The Athletics Congress (now called USA Track & Field) got involved, events began to lose their distinct characteristics. Today it seems like every town has a generic 5k run/walk, but they often are quite similar: flat-ish course, pretty dull and almost forgettable. Gone are many of the strange/insane courses of odd distances or course configurations. There ARE exceptions, of course, but something has gone out of it.

    In some ways swimming is resistant to strict standardization due to the perverse nature of water going where it wants to go. But I really would hate to see it come down to having the vast bulk of OW races be generic 1mile/5k/10k races ("mini-marathon", "1/2 marathon" & "marathon" ) to appeal to the masses and only the odd longer, more eccentric swim.

    Yes, I'm old and in the way, but based on what I've seen before, as OWS grows, I do worry about it losing its quirks in the face of an onslaught of standardization.

    -LBJ
    "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." - T.S. Eliot
  • bobswimsbobswims Charter Member
    If you want to see how absurd it is to have different sanctioning groups, associations and federations determining if a swimmer complies with THEIR rules before they certify a swim, we need look no farther than Steven Redmond's success in the Tsugaru Strait.

    "Because Redmond's swim was completed at night, the Tsugaru Strait Swimming Association states that his swim did not follow the rules of the channel although other swims in the channel have been done at night."
    http://dailynews.openwaterswimming.com/2012/07/association-calls-into-question-stephen.html

    Ridiculous.
  • Bob, the Stephen Redmond matter has been resolved, I am very glad to say. It was ludicrous though and very stressful for Steve and crew for 24 hours, when the world was recognising Steve's achievement, but one Association was playing politics. The TSSA have been badly compromised by their own actions.

    Stephen completed his swim under the auspices of TCSA having previously attempted under TSSA, which (TSSA) was only formed this year.

    Obviously Stephen is a friend of mine and the situation that one new Association would claim that Steve did not complete Tsugaru, when he was in perfectly within the rules of the Observing Association and was validated by an official Observer, was offensive to those involved since the swim was fully documented and validated. It boded I think, ill for future Ocean's Seven Challenge Aspirants such as forum member @swimforever, had it gone otherwise.

    This somewhat mirrors the CSA/CS&PF situation, where CSA do not recognise the CS&PF Solos. (For the record I swam with CS&PF, as have 16 of our 17 Soloists. According to CSA, only 1 of our Soloists is actually a Channel swimmer). I think we mostly recognise this as ridiculous.

    We may not have a formal global scheme, but Channel swimmers as a whole, recognise that CS&PF Soloists are in fact Soloists. This is a de facto global agreement.

    As others have pointed out elsewhere, Diana Nyad's new anti-hypothermia contraption is ridiculous. There is no Association that can speak to that, or inform the general public or maybe more importantly, the Media, but it is the general consensus of swimmers everywhere as far as I have seen.

    it seems to me these two most recent examples show the problems of both fragmentation and also of consolidation. We both need some agreement or consolidation to protect some swims or explain others in context, but there are inherent risks in handing power to one group.

    I have no idea if there is a way to square this circle but human nature means that some people will put politics and personal interest ahead of right or wrong, and personal glory ahead of generally accepted guidelines.

  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Charter Member
    I can understand @loneswimmer's frustration.

    But I don't think think this points to a need for further regulation or coordination between organizations. The fact is, anyone can say whatever they want to the media. Even ridiculous assertions like this one. And the media eats it up.

    The Daily News of Open Water Swimming didn't do Stephen Redmond or the marathon swimming community any favors with this story. Here's how the story begins:

    In a shocking development over the euphoria over Stephen Redmond's recent achievement of the Oceans Seven challenge, the Tsugaru Strait Swimming Association has called into question whether Redmond did actually complete the historic swim.

    I had to read the comment section three times to figure out what actually happened.

    This what the story should have said:

    There are two organizations that sanction Tsugaru Channel Swims. The two organizations have slightly different rules. Stephen Redmond's crossing was sanctioned and validated by TCSA, the older of the two organizations. The newer organization, TSSA (formed only this year) does not recognize crossings sanctioned by the TCSA.

    In an bizarre move, the TSSA went to the media to suggest that Stephen Redmond's crossing was invalid. In an equally bizarre move, media outlets ran with that story.

    As to Dianne Nyad's anti-hypothermia device, it's already against the rules of every marathon swimming organization that I know of. It's not a cap, swimsuit, goggles or earplugs; therefore it can't be worn in marathon swimming. No further coordination is needed to outlaw it.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    It is worth adding @Jamie's perspective to this discussion:

    http://jamiep.yardbarker.com/blog/jamiep/article/long_live_marathon_swimming/11279986

    Although he doesn't directly address the issue of (in)consistency in marathon swimming rules, I think it's fair to say his post was partly motivated by @ScottZornig's article (and the other one from last year).
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    edited July 2012
    The problem is not unique to swimming. Freediving has similar issues. Particularly where AIDA (the governing body) are not involved with the competitions. Some years back, I set a UK National record in Dynamic Apnea at an International competition in Switzerland. The winner set a new world record. The event (previously organised by AIDA) was not sanctioned that particular year due to politics between officials. However, all the same rules and protocols were followed. Both records went unsanctioned.

    The facts remain, the records were set, but neither 'counted'. Rather than arguing, I went to another International competition (organised by AIDA) a couple weeks later. I won the event and beat my previous un sanctioned distance. I was only then officially declared the UK record holder.

    Sometimes the rules are the problem. Usually its internal bickering between two associations.

    Much like the CSA and the new interlopers CS&PF. I believe at the time, it was all about the pilot boat owners wanting more power and control over the work coming their way via the CSA (at over £2,000 at time, who wouldn't). Therefore allowing Channel Crossings under any number of different rules you choose, could now be undertaken by the CS&PF. A total anathema to the CSA, who wanted the swims to remain pure and would not entertain recognising 'other' crossings.

    So we have two organisations.

    As a swimmer currently training for one more Channel swim (a swan song?) next year, I now have to make a choice between organisations. Assuming a successful swim, I get robbed if only one organisation accepts the swim as valid.

    That is not fair.......especially if the swim follows the protocols of both organisations.

    Its odd though, the swimmers accept the swims between the associations. But when a swim becomes a world first or sets new standards.........surely it's the swimming that counts........not the bickering between associations.

    In my swim next year, it would be a world first and an oldest, maybe a fastest too, if I am better than I ever could believe. (maybe three records in one swim, and that is my challenge). It is very motivating to me, even if less so to the worlds other swimmers. It just bothers me that it won't count if I choose the wrong governing body.

    And remember, it's not so easy to just go back again a couple weeks later and re do a swim, as it is to redo a freedive.

  • david_barradavid_barra Charter Member
    Haydn said:



    So we have two organisations.

    As a swimmer currently training for one more Channel swim (a swan song?) next year, I now have to make a choice between organisations. Assuming a successful swim, I get robbed if only one organisation accepts the swim as valid.

    That is not fair.......especially if the swim follows the protocols of both organisations.

    Go with the pilot you like and who can offer you the best dates and position. It is already kind of late to get a #1 slot for 2013... so book soon! (and don't fret over the CSA vs CS&PF thing)
    no one really cares....

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    Agreed. I want the same pilot as my other swims and I favour the CSA because it just feels right to stick with the association that once upon a time, helped make a dream come true. These things are important to me.

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer Admin
    edited July 2012

    Much like the CSA and the new interlopers CS&PF. I believe at the time, it was all about the pilot boat owners wanting more power and control over the work coming their way via the CSA (at over £2,000 at time, who wouldn't). Therefore allowing Channel Crossings under any number of different rules you choose, could now be undertaken by the CS&PF. A total anathema to the CSA, who wanted the swims to remain pure and would not entertain recognising 'other' crossings.

    Without wishing to go into it publicly, I spoke with two senior CS&PF members. I've been told there was a different primary reason for the split with secondary contributory reasons. Some cynics have pointed out however that maybe I was told a story that suited them, but I really doubt that myself. But discussing the split and the resulting antagonism rarely leads anywhere and never anywhere productive.

    I do personally take the opinion that I'm not hugely interested in an organisation that says I didn't swim the Channel and wishes to discriminate against me, after I followed all the same rules. We also regularly read an incorrect number for Soloists, because Journos find the CSA number and don't double check. However, my friends who swam CSA don't think this way at all, and in fact CSA swimmers have previously tried to have the CSA Organisation itself to recognise CS&PF Solos, (but did not succeed). I will be crewing myself with Reg Brickell later this summer and really looking forward to it, having only crewed CS&PF previously and after meeting Reg I can't wait, (weather permitting of course).

    I really hope, as do almost all swimmers, that we will see sometime the future a successful amalgamation of both bodies into one organisation that governs the world's most famous swim.
  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    I honestly think that you can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who are personally invested in distinguishing between the two organisations on the grounds of legitimacy and who harbour animosity towards the other. And in the course of three years of research in the swimming community, other than that tiny cohort of individuals, I've never met a swimmer who shares that investment or who gives two hoots about which organisation people have swum with.

    It's a non-issue that will wither on the vine - just pick the pilot who suits your schedule / approach and go for it.
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    The thing is, we pay a huge fee CSA £400, to have our swim ratified. It is wrong to have a successful swim become unrecognised, just because you chose a different organisation. It seems to me that the CS&PF will acknowledge all swims, but the CSA refuse to accept a swimmers success if they use the CS&PF.

    I am not sure its a non issue. Especially if records are being set by CS&PF swimmers that beat the CSA list. Who becomes the record holder? If its two swimmers, then one is being robbed.

    I have no other idea than that which already mentioned, why the CS&PF felt it better to make the split. I would find it quite interesting to know and more so, to understand why they can't (won't) amalgamate.
  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    My personal inclination has always been to go with the more inclusive listing...but then again, I'm also not in danger of breaking any records and you have to go quite a long way down any list to find me anyway.

    But I guess when I say it's a non-issue, I probably mean that it really should be a non-issue, and to go back to the theme of this thread, I think that it's a mistake to see this as a problem of inconsistent rules, because the split between the two organisations is not really about that (since the rules are the same, bar some very minute tweaks). This is why I think that (hope that?), if left alone, and swimmers continue to insist on 'counting' all swims, then it will eventually wither on the vine.

    Good luck with you 'swan song' swim, whoever you decide to swim with, Haydn. It's all about the swimming in the end; the fun bit.

  • Just booked my English Channel swim 12-14 September 2013. Somehow training just got easier. Last time was 20 years ago and I thought I was too old then. This time, I just don't care.
  • bobswimsbobswims Charter Member
    I'll warm it up for you. I'll be swimming a month earlier
  • KNicholasKNicholas ArizonaMember
    Hopefully I can add some warmth there as well -- I'll be there late July/early August. I'm glad I didn't get into the finer distinctions when picking a boat captain. I really just want to swim it within the rules and land in France.
  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsMember
    edited September 2012

    @Haydn Who becomes the record holder?

    Use the neutral http://www.dover.uk.com.
    They use data from both organizations. :-)
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited February 10
    This thread hasn't been bumped since September 2012, so many new-ish members may not have seen it. It's an interesting historical read, in light of last month's release of the MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming.

    It also serves as a reminder of why I consider SBCSA President Scott Zornig to be the godfather of MSF Rules.
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