Australian swimmer Chloe McCardel is today resting after completing a phenomenal 78-mile ocean swim between two islands in the Bahamas. She swam for 42.5 hours continuously.
McCardel, although just 29 years old, is a veteran marathon swimmer with seven English Channel crossings to her name including two doubles. In both 2011 and 2012 she won the Channel Swimming Association medal for the fastest swim of the year (in 9:03 and 9:30) and in 2013 she attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida but had to retire after severe jellyfish stings.
The swim is the longest ever completed under the marathon swimming rules designed by the Marathon Swimming Federation (MSF), whose principal requirements are that the swim is continuous, that the swimmer cannot touch the support boat and can only wear a single bathing costume, goggles and a swim cap. The swim must also have an independent observer. In this case, the chief observer was David Barra, a respected open water swimmer in his own right and also a race director and support of the MSF.
In 2013, Diana Nyad spent 53 hours crossing from Cuba to Florida, a distance of 110 miles. However, members of the marathon swimming community have raised questions about that swim (there appear for example to be stretches that she covered at double her usual speed and without taking on any food or drink). Nyad also wore protective gear against jellyfish stings.
Some people have also covered longer distances while swimming but these swims were in rivers or took advantage of known currents to increase speed. Records and documentation for these swims is also limited.
It therefore seems that McCardel’s swim, once verified, will be the longest recorded fully-documented unassisted marathon swim under an internationally agreed set of rules. She swam from the southern tip of Eleuthera to Nassau where she arrived at about an hour after midnight on 23 October.