They make a really huge deal out wearing only a swimsuit, cap, and goggles (well, plus earplugs and nose plugs, as well as grease to protect against chafing, if you ask a little more). They mock triathletes for wearing wetsuits, and DQ a channel crosser for getting a hug before they reach dry land.
They also want Diana Nyad to call her swim “assisted” because she wore a thin suit/mask to protect against jellyfish, and because assistants helped her take it on/off while in the water. They're also really cranky about her escort boat putting out a streamer in the water for Nyad to follow. Apparently they want to protect the "integrity" of the EC rules.
However, the so-called “pure” English Channel rules allow the swimmer to be right next to a frickin' boat the entire frickin' swim!! This 30+ foot boat navigates, blocks chop and wind, and provides a huge draft for the adjacent swimmer (who, in the English Channel itself, must be within 5 meters of the boat at all times). The current EC record holder acknowledges swimming in the bow wave of his escort boat.
Any triathlete who has swam off the shoulder of another swimmer knows how big a draft that provides. Imagine the draft off the “shoulder” of a 30 foot boat!
Channel swimmers also have assistants who give them food and water at regular intervals (but there's a big, big deal made about the assistants not touching the swimmer).
Don't get me wrong—I give mad props to anyone who can swim 20+ miles in open water, even with the assistance of a boat. But I don't understand how they overlook their boat and assistants to call their swim “pure and unassisted,” and call using a sighting streamer or a thin, non-neoprene suit “assisted.”
Why is this important? Look at Everest. For decades, everyone who climbed it mounted expeditions with sherpas, oxygen, etc. And then Reinhold Messner climbed it solo and without oxygen, shattering the traditional norms in mountaineering. Now, people like Ueli Steck jog up the Matterhorn in a couple of hours and are home in time for morning espresso.
My point: Some day soon, some bad ass will swim a major channel truly solo. S/he will figure how to carry all the food/water needed, and will swim it without a boat escort (yes, taking the chance of being run over and killed by a ship). Truly solo, truly unassisted. No getting out of the water for lightning, sharks, cramping, puking and exhaustion. Swim across or die trying. It will make the swimmers who go by English Channel rules look like a bunch of tourists.
But the term “solo unassisted” is already claimed by the EC folks, even with their draft/navigation/safety boats and feeding assistants. So how will this amazing feat be recognized?!?
Summary: English Channel swimmers should back off the righteousness about their swim being “pure and unassisted.” It's not.