Never again, says first man to swim the Atlantic

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The Independent Online
AFTER OVERCOMING sharks, internal demons and an arm injury, a 31-year-old French-born American yesterday became the first man to "swim" the North Atlantic.

Ben Lecomte staggered ashore near Quiberon in Brittany after swimming 3,736 miles from Cape Cod in Massachusetts over the past 10 weeks, and vowed: "Never again." His spokeswoman, Colleen Turner, who travelled some of the way with Mr Lecomte on his support boat, was among a large group of friends who greeted him.

"It is very, very exciting but Ben is a little overwhelmed," she said. "He said he is very happy to feel sand between his toes. But his first words were `never again'."

Mr Lecomte, an airline marketing representative, arrived at just after 3.30pm British time after a final 25-mile swim.

His swim included a 500-mile detour in the Azores, after an emotional crisis in late August in which he lost the will to continue. His claim to have set a new long-distance swimming record may now be open to question. He spent seven days ashore in the Azores and he passed some of the Atlantic crossing, between swimming sessions, drifting on currents in his support boat.

The naturalised Americanborn in Paris undertook the swim as a tribute to his father, who died of cancer in 1991. He expects to raise pounds 50,000 for his chosen charity, the British-based Association for International Cancer Research.

Surviving on a diet of jam, Nutella, pasta and tuna, Mr Lecomte swam for six or eight hours each day, in two-hour sessions. He wore a giant "monofin" flipper on both legs and was protected from sharks by a force- field of electro-magnetic signals emitted from his support yacht, the Falbala.

Earlier this week Mr Lecomte said that although France was getting closer, he was "so tired" and still had to wear two wetsuits because of the cold water. He has been rising at 6am and swimming an average of four miles an hour.

Ms Turner said: "He's been through a lot. At one point, he was followed by a great white shark. He didn't know exactly how big it was but he could see it moving back and forth about 30 feet below him. He said: `It's a lot bigger than I am' and that was 30 feet away."