Man plans to swim for four months to cross Atlantic
A former British policeman will swim up to 12 hours a day for four months in a bid to make history by crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to South America.
After more than three years of preparation, Ben Hooper set off yesterday from Dakar in Senegal.
The 38-year-old, from Cheltenham, walked down a beach and into the sea, launching a swim for 3,200km to Brazil.
"This is for my daughter," said Mr Hooper, who filled a water bottle with sand to keep for the eight-year-old who he said inspired the record-breaking swim.
Flanked by two boats and a crew of less than a dozen, Mr Hooper aims to be the first person to swim every kilometre of the Atlantic Ocean from continent to continent, stepping on land again in March.
He trained for three years as he gathered a crew for the Big Blue, the main boat on which he will eat and sleep when he is not swimming for up to 12 hours each day through waters infested with sharks and jellyfish.
"I nearly drowned when I was five in a swimming pool in Belgium," he said. "Ever since I've had this affinity with water. It was the calmest I've ever felt."
Mr Hooper said he had a bout of depression three years ago and decided to turn his life around for his daughter. So he looked to water.
"Nobody had swum a full ocean. More people have landed on the moon than have tried this, so at that point I thought maybe this is my calling," he said. "If I can inspire myself, others and raise money for charity, why not do it?"
Nigel Taylor-Schofield, captain of the Big Blue, said: "This will be a major achievement overall. If anybody can accomplish this, it would be Ben."