Australian woman attempts record swim from Cuba to U.S.

Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:54pm EDT
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - Under a bright, tropical sun, Australian Chloe McCardel jumped into a calm, crystal-clear sea on Wednesday and began her quest to become the first person to make the 103 mile swim from Cuba to the United States without a shark cage.

If all goes well, she hopes to swim through the Straits of Florida in about 60 hours and reach Key West on Friday night.

McCardel will use a team of scientists in the United States to help guide her through the Gulf Stream, the powerful and unpredictable current that has stymied many previous attempts.

Only one person, Australian Susie Maroney in 1997, has completed the Cuba-U.S. swim, but she used a shark cage, which helps cut through the water.

Wearing a black bathing suit and rubber cap, McCardel, 28, and husband Paul McQueeney lathered her body with a whitish goop to protect against the sun and chafing.

"I'm really excited, I'm trying to stay calm and relaxed and just think about the finish," said the blonde, muscled swimmer whose past accomplishments include two back-and-forth crossings of the English Channel.

"It'll be tough, though. It's not going to be an easy ride, but we'll get through it as a team," she told reporters as she prepared to jump into the straits from a promontory at Havana's Hemingway Marina, the traditional starting point of Cuba-U.S. swims.

McCardel said she is making the swim to encourage donations for cancer research, which can be made on her website, and to encourage better U.S.-Cuba relations, which have been sour since the Caribbean island's 1959 revolution.   Continued...

Australian long-distance swimmer Chloe McCardel starts her attempt to swim to Florida from Havana June 12, 2013. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan