HAVANA: Australian Chloe McCardel on Wednesday became the latest swimmer to attempt to cross from Cuba to the US state of Florida, during which she will have to brave strong currents, jellyfish and sharks.
The 29-year-old, who will be attempting the feat without a shark cage, flippers or wetsuit, plunged into the sea at Havana’s Marina Hemingway at 10:00 am (1400 GMT) at the start of a 170-kilometer (100-mile) swim.
She has said she hopes to complete the swim in around 60 hours.
“The team is pumped. The water is flat. The winds are calm. The currents are pushing towards Key West. 10:00 Start. It’s GO TIME PEOPLE!” organizers tweeted.
Her team later tweeted an hour into the crossing that “seas are calm, skies are clear.”
McCardel, who was awarded the Channel Swimming Association’s Sotiraki Cup in both 2011 and 2012, said she hoped to set a world record and draw attention to the decades-long political divide between the United States and communist Cuba.
“I would like to encourage great relations between Cuba and the US and would like to encourage many tourists from around the world to come and visit this beautiful country,” McCardel said ahead of the swim.
She is also raising money for cancer charities, after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when the swimmer was 14.
McCardel said she would cover her body in a type of grease to protect herself from sun and cold and would be fed every 30 minutes with a special liquid nutrition drink with vitamins and minerals.
If she can hold out and make the crossing, McCardel will hold a new record in unassisted nonstop distance swimming, breaking the record set by fellow Australian Penny Palfrey, who failed in an attempt last year to swim across the same strait.
Many swimmers have tried but failed at making the same crossing. The most recent was American Diana Nyad, 63, who abandoned her bid earlier this year, plagued by storms, hypothermia and jellyfish.
Fellow Aussie Susan Maroney is the first and only person to have swum across the Straits. She did so in 1997, at age 22, but used a shark cage for the mammoth effort.