x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

American attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida without shark cage

Diana Nyad on track to complete the 166-kilometre swim today or Wednesday, having covered around a third of the distance in 42 hours in the water.

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad swims in the Florida Straits between Cuba and the Florida Keys, escorted by support personnel in kayaks. Nyad wants to become the first swimmer to transit the straits without a shark cage.
Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad swims in the Florida Straits between Cuba and the Florida Keys, escorted by support personnel in kayaks. Nyad wants to become the first swimmer to transit the straits without a shark cage.

HAVANA // US distance swimmer Diana Nyad paddled onward yesterday after a storm threatened to sink the 62-year-old's fourth bid to swim from Cuba to Florida through jellyfish-infested waters.

Her crew said the skies had cleared yesterday morning and that she was on track to complete the 166-kilometre swim today or Wednesday, having covered around a third of the distance in 42 hours in the water.

"Things couldn't look better right now. The sun is up," operations chief Mark Sollinger told NBC's Today show by satellite phone from one of the support yachts accompanying her.

"Her stroke looks good and we are moving in the right direction."

An overnight lightning storm hindered her progress, forcing her to tread water while the storm blew over, according to diananyad.com, the website documenting the endeavour.

"We had quite a night. The weather was really ugly. All crew members safe," Angie Sollinger, a member of the crew, wrote.

Nyad has been swimming steadily at 50 strokes per minute despite painful jellyfish stings on her lips, forehead, hands and neck.

Some jellyfish release a toxin that may affect a swimmer's performance, particularly in the case of multiple stings.

A build-up of such toxins in Nyad's body forced her to cut short a previous attempt to swim across the Florida Straits last year.

The athlete and author, who took to the water in Havana on Saturday, had aimed to make land in the Florida Keys today, but Mark Sollinger said it was impossible to know the exact time or location of her arrival.

She is on her fourth attempt to cross the strait separating the two countries, which have been at odds for over five decades. Her most recent attempt was in September 2011.