Benoit Lecomte's plan is so insane that I'm breaking my own rule. Normally I'd wait to see if he actually does swim across the Pacific Ocean next year and then tell you what happened.
The thing is, this guy won't give up. Lecomte's 2017 expedition, called The Longest Swim, will be his fourth attempt at a crossing. Originally from France, 49-year-old Lecomte has spent the past 20 years in Austin, Tex. He considers himself a swimmer, adventurer, and advocate. In 1998, he became the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean without a kickboard, swimming across 3,716 miles from Cape Cod to Quiberon in Brittany in 73 days. Each day he swam long hours and took rest breaks on his support boat. Along the way he raised money for cancer research.
This month he announced from the University of Texas at Austin that he'll be attempting to swim across the Pacific Ocean next year, leaving from Tokyo in April and swimming along with the ocean currents to San Francisco. Should he succeed, he'll set a world record. Currently Lecomte is the associate director of sustainability services for the environmental consulting firm Progea.
He and his crew also plan to conduct scientific research during the expedition using equipment provided from institutions that include NASA and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, according to his site. They want to do things like study the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, find out where contaminants from the Fukushima disaster went and take a closer look at the chemical properties of the Pacific Ocean.
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That Atlantic crossing in the '90s, while clearly ridiculously hard, was far shorter than the roughly 5,500 miles between his start and end points on either side of the Pacific. Lecomte anticipates that if he swims for eight hours a day, the trip will take 180 days. That's half a year. Let that sink in a little.
Two other expeditions fell through in the past four years. Both times, something went wrong with Lecomte's support boat. The captain of the first one had a heart attack and the other lacked blueprints for its customized structure, making it too risky to take to sea, The Guardian reported.
Now he'll be swimming with the Discoverer, a 67-foot steel hulled veteran vessel of the Global Challenge yacht race. A small crew will be aboard and a land-based medical team will stay in touch with them to monitor Lecomte's health. In the water, he'll be outfitted with a shark-repellant bracelet and a waterproof EKG monitor in addition to the prerequisite wetsuit, goggles, fins and snorkel.
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"I've been doing open-water swims for a very long time and I have seen the changes in the ocean, the environment," Lecomte told The Guardian. "More plastic, less fish, and every time I swim with my kids I always think about what type of world I am going to leave behind." He added that he hopes he'll see sharks since their absence would say a lot about their current state.
Given all that ocean he wants to cover, he'll likely see at least a couple of sharks. He'll probably encounter other creatures and extreme weather conditions, too. I truly hope he does make it. The rest of us will just have to be patient and ride out the wait.