KEY WEST, Fla. – Endurance swimmer Penny Palfrey has abandoned her effort to become the first woman to swim unassisted from Cuba to the Florida Keys, ending her odyssey after almost 41 hours in the water and about three-quarters of the way through the more than 100-mile swim, her support team said early today.
Andrea Woodburn, one of the team members, said by phone that the British-born Australian marathon swimmer halted her effort around midnight some 26 miles south of Key West because of a strong ocean current.
“She is fine,” Woodburn said from Florida’s Key West, without giving further details on Palfrey’s condition.
Woodburn said she had been in contact with Palfrey’s boat and was told the swimmer had to get out of the water when she encountered too strong a current to continue in the treacherous Florida Straits.
The waters in the area are notorious for their fickle ocean currents, including the powerful Gulf Stream. But further details of whether she had encountered the Gulf Stream or a side eddy of that current were not immediately available.
Palfrey had been aiming for the record books to become the first woman to swim from Cuba to the Keys without the aid of a shark cage.
Instead she had been relying on equipment that surrounded her with an electrical field to deter the predators. Her support team consisted of more than a dozen navigators, handlers and medical personnel escorting her on the 44-foot catamaran Sealuver.
Australian Susie Maroney made the crossing in 1997 at age 22, but with a shark cage.
American Diana Nyad made two unsuccessful cageless attempts last year on either side of her 62nd birthday, but had to call them off due to a debilitating asthma attack and painful Portuguese man o’ war stings. She has announced plans to try again this summer.
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