US swimmer hits rough weather in Cuba-US crossing

by Carlos Batista
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Veteran US endurance swimmer Diana Nyad braves the treacherous waters of the Florida Straits

Veteran US endurance swimmer Diana Nyad braves the treacherous waters of the Florida Straits on August 18 in her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage

Veteran US athlete Diana Nyad on Monday encountered some rough weather that hindered her advance on her fourth attempt to cross the Florida Straits from Cuba without a shark cage.

"There is lots of lightning out there and the storm is blowing right on top of Diana," support team member Alex de Cordoba reported. "All the warm calm weather from earlier today is now churning with the upper atmosphere, creating lightning, rain and winds."

He said a decision had been made to wait for the squall to blow over and find a path out of the storm.

De Cordoba insisted that Nyad was "safe, feeling strong and is now swimming again."

After some 35 hours in the water, the 62-year-old has covered a third of 103-mile (166-kilometer) distance and the 50-member crew accompanying her said she was "very comfortable and confident."

Before the storm, Nyad had been swimming steadily at 50 strokes per minute despite painful jellyfish stings on her lips, forehead, hands and neck, the team said in updates to fans via social media.

Some jellyfish release a toxin that may affect a swimmer's performance, particularly in the case of multiple stings.

A build-up of such toxins in Nyad's body forced her to cut short her swim across the Florida Straits last year.

The athlete and author, who took to the water in Havana on Saturday, aims to make land at the Florida Keys on Tuesday after about 60 hours in the water.

She is on her fourth attempt to cross the strait separating the two countries, which have been at odds for over five decades. The last was in September 2011.

A video posted on YouTube showed her singing Beatles tunes in between sips of water. "There's no stopping her now," the crew said.

Nyad's first attempt to make the crossing was in 1978, when she was 28 years old.

Shoulder pain, asthma and ocean swells forced her to cut short another attempt in August 2011.

This time, the long-distance swimmer has a specially designed bodysuit to protect her against jellyfish that she wears at night, when the creatures are most active and when the accompanying boats and kayaks switch on red lights -- instead of white, which attract them.

The suit does not, however, prevent all stings, including by dangerous box jellyfish.

Nyad swims the backstroke at night to keep her face out of the water and avoid being stung, according to the crew, which works from five yachts and includes divers with shark experience as well as jellyfish experts.

The swimmer comes up to her Voyager escort boat, which she is not allowed to touch, around every 90 minutes to fuel up, sipping on a concoction of nutrients, electrolytes and calories through a Camelbak hydration pack.

Despite fatigue, she has not lost her appetite. In one of the meals, she had pasta and hot chocolate, the crew said. At other times, she has a spoonful of peanut butter, pasta or a bite of bread.

Stressing the immensity of the challenge, her team tweeted: "This swim is five English Channels, with sharks and box jellies added."

Fans can follow Nyad's progress online at www.diananyad.com.

Nyad, who turns 63 on Wednesday, set an open sea record for both men and women by swimming from the Bahamas to the Florida Keys in 1979 -- a journey that is the same distance as the Cuba-Florida swim, but a feat she has described as far less dangerous.

And she set a record for circling the island of Manhattan at age 50, clocking in at seven hours and 57 minutes.

In July, British-Australian athlete Penny Palfrey, 49, failed to swim unassisted from Cuba to Florida and had to be plucked from the sea after nearly 42 hours in the water when she could no longer cope with a strong current.

Veteran US endurance swimmer Diana Nyad braves the treacherous waters of the Florida Straits on August 18 in her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

Graphic map showing the Florida Straits separating Cuba and US, where a veteran American swimmer set off Saturday on an epic swim linking the two countries.

Diana Nyad takes a break after reportedly being stung by a jellyfish on August 18 off Havana, Cuba. The swimmer comes up to her Voyager escort boat, which she is not allowed to touch, around every 90 minutes to fuel up, sipping on a concoction of nutrients, electrolytes and calories through a Camelbak hydration pack.

US long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, pictured at the Ernest Hemmingway International Nautical Club in Havana on August 18. Nyad, who turns 63 on Wednesday, set an open sea record for both men and women by swimming from the Bahamas to the Florida Keys in 1979 -- a journey that is the same distance as the Cuba-Florida swim, but a feat she has described as far less dangerous.