In a Facebook post dated 15 December, Ben Hooper announced that he was abandoning his attempt to swim every mile of the Atlantic between Senegal and Brazil.
The release says:
“During the early hours of this morning, Thursday 15th December 2016, we were subjected to our fifth day of Atlantic storms as a result of which the expedition support vessel, the sailing catamaran Big Blue, suffered damage to her steering and standing rigging.
“The crew worked through the night to make the vessel safe for all on-board and we were able to assess the extent of the damage and the impact on the expedition at first light.
“By this afternoon, emergency repairs had been made by the crew to enable the vessel to continue sailing safely towards Brazil.
“Unfortunately, the damage has been severe enough to warrant a reappraisal of the expedition.
“In the interest of the safety of all souls on-board Big Blue we have decided to postpone the expedition and sail directly to Natal in Brazil by the shortest route.”
The post goes on to list further reason why the decision was made to stop the attempt with Ben concluding that: “this setback will not prevent us completing this record in the future.”
After 33 days at sea Ben reports that 15 of those were unswimmable due to weather conditions, mechanical issues with the support boat and ill-health, including the impact of jellyfish stings. He swam a total of 87 miles against a target distance of 1,879 miles. At that rate, the swim would have taken nearly two years compared with the original estimate of four months.
The attempt has attracted a good deal of publicity, both positive and negative. Marathon swimmers (via the Marathon Swimmers Forum) in particular have questioned what it actually means to swim every mile.
Ben’s initial plan was to swim daily and rest over night on the boat, which would inevitably drift due to currents and wind. The boat would then return to the where the swim finished the day previously. However, this is unfeasible because of the amount of fuel required. Instead, the journey would follow a curve while Ben would attempt to swim the equivalent of the straight line distance, and then make up any shortfall as he approached Brazil by swimming parallel to the coast.
Within a few days it became apparent that there was a lot more drifting and a lot less swimming going on than planned. Opinion divided on whether Ben was unlucky (and perhaps under-prepared) or was he trying to claim a record that just didn’t stand up under scrutiny? At this stage, with swim called off, the question is moot. However, the questions will return if Ben makes a second attempt.
Meanwhile, comments on his Facebook post remain predominantly positive and encouraging. The attempt has clearly inspired a lot of good will from around the world.
Ben will remain in the Atlantic for the next few weeks while his boat completes the journey to Brazil.