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Friday, September 25, 1998 Published at 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK

World: Europe

Swimmer conquers Atlantic

Lecomte set off from Cape Cod towards France on July 16

Swim coordinator Colleen Turner: "It's not about amazing physical feats"
The first person to swim across the Atlantic Ocean has finally arrived at the French coast on Friday afternoon after 73 days at sea.

Frenchman Ben Lecomte, 31, now of Austin, Texas, USA, swum a colossal 3,716 miles when he makes landfall at Quiberon, in north west France between 1300 and 1500 GMT.

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke reports on an astonishing feat
Mr Lecomte's record-setting attempt, which began from Cape Cod, Massachusetts on 16 July, has already raised £100,000 for a Scottish-based cancer charity.

Attempt coordinator Colleen Turner, who is travelling in the support boat alongside Mr Lecomte, said: "He was explaining that all he has been doing is swimming, just swimming."

Force eight storms

Mr Lecomte, a marketing representative for American Airlines, has achieved his remarkable feat by swimming for six hours a day within a 25ft electro-magnetic field called a 'protective ocean device' which protects him from sharks.

He trained for six years before undertaking the swim in memory of his father who died of colon cancer in 1991, and to raise money for the Scottish-based charity, the Association for International Cancer Research.

Mr Lecomte, who has to eat for four hours every day to replace more than 9,000 calories burned while swimming, has battled through force eight storms, 45-60 knot winds and 10-20ft waves, in addition to tackling sea turtles, dolphins, jellyfish and incredibly cold water on the way to a place in the record books.

[ image: Lecomte: Faced sharks, storms and 20ft waves]
Lecomte: Faced sharks, storms and 20ft waves
But some critics have been disparaging about Mr Lecomte's attempt, because he has spent up to 18 hours a day sleeping and eating in his support boat

Ms Turner said: "This is not about amazing physical feats or records for Ben.

"What he's done is set the bar. There was another attempt several years ago by another Frenchman called Guy Delage - it must be something in the water here - who swam 300 miles less and he used a kickboard.

"Ben's gone above that by also using his arms. It's up to somebody else to set the bar again."

Other transatlantic records

  • In 1969, Briton John Fairfax became the first person to row across the Atlantic single-handed.
  • In 1952, Frenchman Alain Bombard made the first crossing in a rubber dingy
  • In 1988, another Frenchman, Remy Bricka, took 64 days to "ski" across the Atlantic on polyester floats.
  • Guy Delage also holds the record for the first transatlantic crossing in a microlight, in 1991.
  • In August, three North American "artists" accompanied by their three dogs successfully sailed across the Atlantic in a 50ft boat constructed entirely from junk.
  • On Tuesday, British windsurfer Jason Gilbert completed a 2,200-mile, three-man journey from Newfoundland to Dorset. "The first thing I want to do now is go for a pint," he said.

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