Failed Cuba-to-Florida swimmer won’t try again
Australian swimmer Chloe McCardel prepares to begin her swim to Florida from the waters off Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, June 12, 2013. McCardel says she expects to spend about 60 hours in the sea before reaching the Florida Keys, a little more than 100 miles to the northeast. McCardel jumped into the water at Havana's Hemingway Marina on Wednesday morning, accompanied by kayakers and a support boat. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
The Australian who gave up her quest to swim from Cuba to Florida because of painful jellyfish stings said yesterday that she will not make another attempt.
Chloe McCardel told the Associated Press that she had picked June because the jellyfish danger was supposed to be low. But about 11 hours and 14 miles into her expected 60-hour, 110-mile journey, she found herself in a swarm.
“I had one coming out of my mouth. I was pulling it, this tentacle out of my mouth, but I don’t remember this moment. My kayaker told me that I was doing this, ’cause I have no recollection. I’m not coming back. That’s it,” she said.
The 28-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, became the latest endurance athlete undone by the strong currents and fierce jellyfish of the Florida Straits on Wednesday night, abandoning her attempt to become the first person to swim across nonstop without a shark cage. The jellyfish caught her by surprise.
“I got smashed with them coming from every direction,” she said. “I would not have gone to all this trouble if I had known they would be out in such numbers in June.”
She was pulled out of the water and taken by one of her support vessels to Key West, where she was resting at a hotel yesterday. She said the trip back to land was excruciating.
“It was two and a half hours of the worst pain, continuously, every second, of my whole entire life. It’s like fireballs in every fiber,” she said.
It was the fifth failure involving three women who have tried to make the marathon swim the past three summers. Jellyfish stings and strong currents have been the main impediments.
Diana Nyad tweeted her commiseration. The endurance athlete has failed three times trying to make the same crossing and said she’d like to take another shot this summer.
“It’s a tough night for Chloe McCardel, a superior swimmer and an exemplary spirit,” Nyad wrote.
Endurance swimmer Penny Palfrey has also tried and failed to make the swim.
Australian Susie Maroney successfully made the crossing in 1997, but she did it with the benefit of a shark cage.
McCardel had twice made a double crossing of the English Channel, but the most time she had spent in the water continuously was 25 hours.
She attempted her Cuba-to-Florida swim under English Channel Marathon rules, which meant she could not touch her support boat or hold on to anything. She also wasn’t allowed to wear a full-body wetsuit, which would have helped protect against jellyfish.
McCardel and her team spent nine and a half months planning the trip and studying others’ attempts.
The repeated failures raise the question of whether the Cuba-to-Florida swim without a cage is even doable as a 21∕2-day swim is stretching the physical limits of even elite endurance athletes. According to Guinness World Records, the longest open water swim without flippers was 139.8 miles by Croatian Veljko Rogosic, who swam between two Italian cities on the Adriatic Sea from Aug. 29 to 31, 2006.