Australian swimmer planning Havana-Key West trek in June


Can an Australian distance swimmer become the first person to successfully swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage?


Another swimmer has stepped up to tackle the perpetually vexing Cuba-to-Florida swim.

Australian distance swimmer Chloe McCardel announced this weekend that she plans to try to swim from Havana to Key West in June 2013 — without a shark cage.

If she makes it, McCardel would be the first to swim the approximately 105 miles without a cage enclosing her.

“We can show it can be done,” McCardel said Sunday in a telephone interview. “It’s not just a dream.”

The 27-year-old follows in the path of several who have tried before, including Diana Nyad, an American swimmer who has tried the daunting trek — also without a shark cage — several times but has yet to make it all the way.

McCardel already has quite a distance-swimming résumé. She has crossed the English Channel several times, including two double crossings. She won the 2010 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.

But, if she pulls off this challenge, she would be the first to do it without significant help.

For decades, the journey — filled with waves, sharks and jellyfish — has attracted ambitious distance swimmers. The trek has such a fearsome reputation, McCardel said, that her mother nearly fainted when she heard the news about her daughter’s new goal.

“This one particular swim is probably the most high-profile swim the world at the moment,” McCardel said.

Nyad tried the trek for the first time in 1978, with a shark cage. She tried twice without a shark cage in 2011 and again in 2012.

Australian Susie Maroney successfully swam the Florida Straits in 1997, but she used a shark cage.

In June, another Australian, Penny Palfrey, made it 79 miles toward Florida without a cage before strong currents forced her to abandon the try.

Now comes McCardel, who calls the swim her New Year’s resolution.

McCardel’s team said she would make the trip wearing a basic bathing suit and without outside help, such as snorkels or flippers. She also won’t be touching a boat or another person during her swim.

McCardel has been talking to jellyfish experts in Australia, she said, to devise tactics to avoid the creatures.

Her team also plans to have a shark conservationist on hand during the swim.

To prepare, there is a lot of training involved; efficiency, not speed, is key in distance swimming, McCardel said.

She also hopes to use the attention her swim generates to raise money for cancer research.

. Her swim already has private sponsorship covering its costs.

McCardel said she swam competitively as a teenager but wasn’t good enough to make the Australian national team. She tried other sports, including triathlons, but eventually fell in love with marathon swimming.

There’s always a new challenge, she says, to push herself to go further each time.

“It’s not about a race between me and someone else,” she said.

“It’s about pushing the boundaries of marathon swimming.”

McCardel’s team is asking for experienced kayakers to volunteer and help with her swim. If interested, more information is here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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