By Mark Gleeson
CAPETOWN (Reuters) – Endurance athlete Cameron Bellamy will attempt an unprecedented 150km swim from Barbados to St Lucia on Friday in an effort to complete the longest ocean swim in history.
The attempt, which is dependent on ocean currents and the weather, has been hastily arranged after he had to abandon a planned 166km swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys, which he said was stopped by American authorities.
“I was denied the licence for my support boat to make the trip, the U.S. government is very hawkish on Cuba right now and declined everything,” Bellamy told Reuters in a telephone interview from Barbados.
Instead he has arranged an equally testing alternative.
“We’ve managed to put the planning for this one together in just a matter of weeks. Last year I did a 41-hour swim around Barbados of 100km — the fourth longest unassisted swim ever — which has me mentally confident about tackling the longer distance and I’ve been training pretty hard for the last six months.”
The 37-year-old South African, who has rowed across the Indian Ocean and completed seven different open water channel swims around the world, will wait for optimal conditions before setting off.
He will battle not only the inevitable fatigue but the danger of sharks, jellyfish and the agony of salt-water mouth.
“One of the hardest things to deal with is being in the salt water for so long, especially your mouth,” he said. “When I swam around Barbados that was the most painful thing I experienced, especially the last hours. It was agony.”
He applies coconut oil and honey to his lips and flushes with mouthwash after hourly feeds. To defend against sharks, shields are placed in the water around him emitting an electrical pulse that keeps them away.
The ocean currents will determine for how long Bellamy has to swim.
“If the currents are favourable it could allow me to do it in anything between 45 to 72 hours,” he said on Thursday.
Last month, Bellamy completed two 24-hour swims off the Barbados coast as part of his final preparations, starting at 7am and going through the night.
“The last one went really well and although I’ll be pushing some boundaries, I couldn’t have prepared any better,” he said.
“Key out there is to not be negative. My thoughts will probably be going a little crazy in the first hours but I want to slip into a meditative state as I swim.
“I find that if my thoughts do start turning negative, especially in the latter half of the swim, then I will set myself short-term goals that help to motivate me.”
He is watched constantly by supporters paddling kayaks close by with the support boat alongside.
“It’s the longest and toughest thing I’ve ever taken on but I feel prepared,” he added.
The Marathon Swimmers Federation recognises a 124.4km swim by Chloe McCardel from the south of Eleuthera Island to Nassau in the Bahamas five years ago as the longest ocean swim.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Toby Davis)