Page last updated at 13:55 GMT, Sunday, 8 February 2009

Woman claims Atlantic swim first

Maps showing route

A 56-year-old American athlete claims to have become the first woman on record to swim the Atlantic.

Jennifer Figge took 24 days to swim from the Cape Verde islands off Africa to Trinidad. The exact distance she covered has yet to be calculated.

She swam inside a cage to protect her from sharks.

Figge, who had originally planned to make landfall in the Bahamas, now plans to finish by swimming from Trinidad to the British Virgin Islands.

She first dreamed of swimming across the Atlantic Ocean as a little girl.

Jennifer Figge
Looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way
Jennifer Figge
The swimmer finally moved nearer her goal when she left Cape Verde Islands on 12 January, facing waves of up to 9m (30 ft).

Each day she would spend up to eight hours in the water at a stretch before returning to her support boat.

Crew members would throw the athlete energy drinks as she swam along, if it was too stormy divers would deliver them in person.

She saw pilot whales, turtles, and dolphins, but no sharks.

"I was never scared," she told the Associated Press news agency.

"Looking back, I wouldn't have it any other way. I can always swim in a pool."

Jennifer Figge's journey comes 10 years after a French swimmer, Benoit Lecomte, made the first known solo trans-Atlantic swim covering 6,400km (4,000 miles) in 73 days.

Figge had planned to swim 3,380km (2,100 miles), but she was blown off course and reached Trinidad rather than the Bahamas.

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