Acceptable/allowable, yes. Advisable - maybe, depending on the race. The problem with backstroke is that you can't spot up to see where you're going (or whether you're about to run over the swimmer ahead of you). If you're a weaker swimmer and need to flip to your back for a bit to rest, by all means people do that and are allowed to do so. In longer races, I even sometimes flip on my back for a few seconds to check how far people are behind me... If you can comfortably finish the sprint swim without backstroke, don't use it. If you're doing a pool swim, also, don't use it because you will likely run into the person in front of you. I would not advise long periods of backstroke in a short race simply because you can't see where you're going. If you're swimming in an area with waves, personally I've found it harder to manage backstroke than freestyle when getting rocked by waves. However, if you're just using it for a few seconds of rest from freestyle, go for it, as long as you're not in a crowded pool.
Yep. You're allowed to do anything except be propelled by another person or vehicle. You can backstroke, breaststroke, float, hold onto a buoy, hold onto a kayak, so long as it doesn't move you.
From the ITU rulebook:
a) Competitors may use any stroke to propel themselves through the water. They
may also tread water or float;
b) A competitor may stand on the bottom or rest by holding an inanimate object
such as a buoy or stationary boat;
c) A competitor may not make use inanimate objects to gain an advantage;
d) In an emergency, a competitor should raise an arm overhead and call for
assistance. Once official assistance is rendered, the competitor must retire
from the competition."
From the USAT rulebook:
4.1 Permissible Strokes. Swimmers may use any stroke to propel themselves through the water and may tread
water or float.
4.2 Bottom Contact and Resting. A participant may stand on the bottom or rest by holding an inanimate object
such as a buoy, boat, rope or floating object. Excluding the bottom, a participant shall not use any inanimate object
to gain forward progress. A violation of this section shall result in a variable time penalty, unless the Head Referee
in his/her sole discretion determines that the violation was substantial and resulted in an unfair time advantage, or
(ii) the violation constituted endangerment under Section 3.4(1)."
Anecdotally, I have been outswum by a female backstroker in a Sprint event before. That's saying something as I'm a fast swimmer, so it was laughably embarassing...
I believe it's quite acceptable and useful to supplement longer swims with stroke variants. That being said, at a Sprint distance in open water (I'm assuming this race will be so and not in a pool) I would HIGHLY recommend breaststroke rather than back. It is very difficult to sight a line on your back and you run the risk of disturbing other racers if you aren't aware of what you are swimming into. I've used breaststroke on olympic and 70.3 races before as a "breather" and believe that's the way to go. Good luck!
I can't imagine why someone would want to do backstroke in a triathlon swim, but it is allowable. I would recommend freestyle and breast stroke though. When you are in the water with so many people swimming around you and arms flailing everywhere, you would be less vulnerable to getting smacked in the face if your face was facing forward and downward.
This is all very good. Hubby is doing his second sprint tri, but first going to actually finish it. Swimming is his weakest so it was great to learn of the rules even though I told him that as long as he's swimming then he's okay. 5 weeks to go