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Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK


Swimming the Atlantic

Once he gets to France, Lecomte will have swum more than 3,700 miles

Ben Lecomte, a French-born American, is just days away from entering the record books by swimming from America to France.

Mr Lecomte, 31, set off on July 16 from Hyannis, Massachusetts, wearing a large double-footed flipper, and accompanied by a 40-foot yacht with two crew.

[ image: Lecomte: Father's death sparked cancer campaign]
Lecomte: Father's death sparked cancer campaign
His spokeswoman Colleen Turner said: "At his completion, he will have swum more than 3,726 statute miles, setting a world record for long-distance swimming."

Whereas other long-distance swimmers have swum in cages to protect them from sharks, Mr Lecomte is wearing a device which emits sonar signals to repel sharks.

[ image: A monofin maximises speed]
A monofin maximises speed
He has been swimming in two or three hour blocks, then sleeping and eating on the boat, which is left to drift when he is on board.

To maintain enough energy for the marathon journey, he has had to consume up to 8,000 calories a day - around three times more than the average recommended intake for men.

Mr Lecomte, an American Airlines sales rep, is using the marathon swim to raise money for a Scotland-based cancer research charity, the Association for International Cancer Research. Net effect

He has never actually met his chosen beneficiaries and has communicated with them - and a growing fan club - via the Net.

"Without email and the Internet this tie-up would not have been possible," said Derek Napier, chief executive of AIRC.

'I am so tired'

"France is getting closer but I am so tired," he said on Thursday. "However, the weather is much nicer, though the water is still cold, in the low 60 degrees Fahrenheit."

[ image: Ready for a well-earned rest on board]
Ready for a well-earned rest on board
He protects his skin from the salt water with medicated creams and wears two wetsuits to stay warm.

He says thoughts of his loved ones keep him going.

350-mile detour

But on August 17 the physical strain and loneliness took its toll. The water purifier on the support vessel broke, too, so he was unable to wash the sea water off himself.

He decided to head for the nearest landmass - the Azores, off the coast of Portugal.

This added another 350 mile to the swim but he managed to rest for a day before swimming to France, encouraged by hundreds of e-mail messages pouring into his website.

Among those ready to greet him when he finally steps onto the shores of Quiberon in Western France will be his fiancee, Trini Dang and AIRC chairman of the board of governors John Matthews.

It is not clear if his achievement will be recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records.

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