When Ben Lecomte, a French-born long-distance swimmer who now lives in Texas, swam across the Atlantic in 1998, he said, “never again.” But that was then. Now Lecomte, 51, is trying to swim across a much larger ocean, the Pacific, and he’s off to a good start.
Lecomte started in Tokyo on June 5, aiming for San Francisco, some 5,000 miles away. His swim across the Atlantic took 73 days. The Pacific will take six months. So far, he’s come 205 miles. If he makes it, he will be the first person to swim across the Pacific Ocean. Lecomte says he prepared for this latest swim for the past six years. “I am not an Olympic swimmer,” he says, “but I am an adventurer in the way that I push my limits.”
The idea behind “the longest swim” is to raise awareness about pollution in the ocean, particularly about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a pile of trash three times the size of France that’s floating between Hawaii and California. Lecomte’s nine-member support team on Discoverer, a 67-foot, steel-hulled sailboat, is collecting water samples along the way; they’re involved in eight scientific research projects.
Lecomte swims eight hours a day, with an average speed of 2.5 knots; with the currents, he hopes to travel 30 nm a day. After each day’s swim, he climbs back on the boat to rest, sleep and eat. With a GPS, the team marks where he got out of the water, and that’s the spot where he starts the next day.
To keep up his stamina, Lecomte consumes about 8,000 calories a day on a no-sugar diet that’s high on freeze-dry meals, rice, pasta and soup. Breakfast usually is a combination of rice, veggies, meat and oatmeal. In the water, his team on a RIB gives him soup about every half hour.
At one point, a school of dolphin came over to swim with Lecomte for a while. But so far, the swim in the Pacific has not been a walk in the park. The entire team was almost run down by a passing container ship, and the weather has not been kind. A few days ago Lecomte got nausea. “I spent the night in my bunk with pillows and my backpack on my side to limit my movements,” he wrote on his blog. “I could hear the waves breaking the hull and rolling on the deck.” It was raining with 30 knots of wind. “Each time I stood up nausea came back and I stayed in my bunk most of the day.” Read more: