Pacific Swim Update: Lecomte Hits 1,000km

Benoit Lecomte is now well into his third month swimming across the Pacific Ocean. The 51-year-old French swimmer set off from Japan in early June and has made solid progress on the 8,800km swim. He has been in the water eight hours a day and he has covered approximately 1,000km of his route toward San Francisco: an average of about 15km daily.

Lecomte’s progress so far. He has been making use of the Kuroshio current that runs along Japan’s east coast to gain some free miles.

Aside from the physical toil of the swim itself, Lecomte has had to contend with rough seas and cold water for his first 68 days. On day 47, the support team received news of two typhoons converging on their position, with predicted waves of up to 20 metres high and winds above 80 knots. Their only option was to bring Lecomte back on board and immediately sail west to wait out the storm, delaying progress for a few days. The team then used the GPS to return to Lecomte’s previous position.

Lecomte stops for regular checks of pulse and body temperature. Photo: Ben Lecomte

The ultra-ultra marathon swimmer has had a number of close encounters with sea life, some welcome — a curious turtle and a pod of pilot whales — and some not. Sharks passed nearby on days 28 and 29, and jellyfish have been a consistent afternoon menace. In his wetsuit, fins, hood and goggles, he would seem to be well-fortified against jellyfish, but he is often stung on one of his only exposed parts, his nose. The pain can be quite severe, so he has been trying to avoid swimming in the late afternoon, when jellyfish rise to the surface to feed.

A barnacle-encrusted turtle checked Lecomte out on day 27. Photo: Ben Lecomte

Lecomte is the first person to try to swim across the Pacific. He hopes to raise awareness about both climate change and our use of plastics. His support boat, the Discovery, has been collecting floating plastic as they go, as well as studying the possible effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on sea-life.