I was surprised that there really isn't that much information out there in regards to bootlegging a race. This isn't unique to swimming. It happens in a 5K, and other non swimming events. People are cheap, and often can't afford to pay for registration, and may or may not realize the ethics of not paying.
I created the term "Bootlegging" in openwaterpedia, as well as posted a question in the marathonswimmers.org forum to bounce this topic off the open water community.
But I'll give my own two cents here.
A couple years back a swimmer showed up at the starting line of the GSL 1 mile event without a cap and swam the event alongside all the other swimmers through to the finish. He didn't get a shirt, medal, cap, but he did get the benefit of safety kayakers, the excitement of swimming with, and competing against other swimmers, and I'm not sure, but he most likely took the shuttle back to the start of this point to point race.
Not sure if there was anything we could have done (except deny shuttle service) to this guy. We had to pay the Utah State parks for a permit to use the land at the finish line, and at the marina. Our expenses were split among those who paid their registration fees, so in a sense this guy was stealing from us and making the race directors lose money in their costs/revenue balances.
It came across as really cheap and made me mad.
On the other hand, is it bootlegging if a family member or friend is running a marathon and you run along side them for a portion of it as encouragement? Some marathons explicitly mention this practice and that those who are registered that run alongside someone not registered during the course will be disqualified. However I see many parents cross the finish line holding hands with their little kids. If one runs the entire course then that may be more blatant, than say a few hundred yards or even several miles. This can be a gray area. But to run/swim an entire course for the purpose of participating for their own individual benefit without paying registration fees seems pretty black and white. That's bootlegging.
And anyone who does it should be ashamed. It's cheap and in a sense it's stealing. What are your thoughts?
What if someone came to you before the race and said they couldn't afford to pay the registration? Would you consider comping all, or a portion of the registration to accommodate them? If so, would you still consider giving them a shirt/medal/listing in the results?