After seven years of preparation, Paris-born Ben Lecomte began a 5,000-mile swim across the Pacific Ocean that will benefit a number of causes, including San Pedro’s AltaSea which was one of the project’s early supporters.
The swim began in Choshi, Japan, at about 5 p.m. Monday, June 4, West Coast time (9 a.m. Tuesday in Japan). If he completes the journey, he’ll be the first swimmer to have done so.
Tim McOsker, CEO of AltaSea, watches a live Facebook feed as Ben Lecomte dives into the Pacific Ocean at Tokyo to begin what will be a 5,000-mile swim across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco. AltaSea has been involved in sponsoring “The Longest Swim” and they watched the swim launch via live stream in their conference room in downtown San Pedro.
It is expected to take between six to eight months, ending in San Francisco. Lecomte, who turned 51 over the weekend, has plenty of experience. He swam across the Atlantic Ocean in 1998 to raise funds for cancer research.
This time, he’s swimming to raise awareness and funding to improve the ocean’s environment, With the first splash late Monday afternoon — early Tuesday morning, Tokyo time — Paris-born Ben Lecomte began what will be a 5,000-mile mission to swim across the Pacific Ocean in pursuit of ocean and environmental research.
Locally, the project will raise funds for ocean education for AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles.
Ben Lecomte prepares for his “Longest Swim” in San Pedro on Thursday, Mar 1, 2018. Lecomte is planning on swimming from Japan to San Francisco in May. (Photo: Scott Varley, contributor)
Tagged “The Swim,” the ordeal will be featured in a documentary that will be shown in 2019 on the Discovery Channel. But for those who can’t wait, they can follow along with video shorts and social media posts at https://www.seeker.com/theswim, the Seeker page on Facebook and also in updates on Instagram and Twitter.
Seeker is the name of the 62-foot sailboat that will travel with Lecomte providing support. He will swim eight hours each day and then will come on board at night to sleep with a GPS tracker marking the exact spot where he stopped. The next day’s swim resumes at the same spot.
Lecomte, an Austin-based architect, will test the water as he swims, providing research and information for such organizations as NASA.
A nine-member support crew, including scientists, researchers and a medic, will collect samples with a special focus on how plastics pollution is affecting the world’s oceans.
The Swim and AltaSea are launching a pledge campaign to raise money during the first 1,000 miles of the journey. To donate, go to www.altasea.org/contribute-to-altasea/ and mark the box “The Swim.”
“What Ben and his team are doing is so vital to raise awareness of the importance of our oceans and the problems our oceans face,” said Jenny Krusoe, AltaSea’s executive director.
AltaSea hosted Lecomte’s crew and support ship for several months during the winter months. During that time on San Pedro’s coastline, the Seeker was retrofitted for the journey.
Lecomte, the first person to swim across the Atlantic Ocean, will attempt to swim across the Pacific Ocean in 2018 in partnership with AltaSea in San Pedro. Submitted Photo
A crowd that had gathered on the Japan beach cheered as Lecomte took his first few strokes in the water.
In San Pedro, AltaSea supporters gathered Monday to watch the live stream of Lecomte’s start of the swim. His two children, ages 12 and 16, accompanied him out for the first laps. The three hugged and talked before the children headed back to shore and he continued on to meet up with the Seeker just offshore.
The next time he’ll see them will be in San Francisco.
Watching online were people from throughout the world.
“Cheers from the Canadian prairies!” posted one.
Among other comments: “Good luck from Austin, Tx,” “God bless,” “Best of luck watching from the Philippines,” “Good luck from Las Vegas, Nev.,” “God be with you,” “Wow!”
Most of the questions online were about sharks. The crew carries a shark deterrent device, just in case any might get too close.
Lecomte will consume liquid foods during his swim, amounting to some 8,000 calories a day to help fuel the grueling physical challenge.
How did it feel to finally hit the water after so much planning? “Nice!” he yelled back to his nephew on board a dingy with a camera crew. “I’m ready to go … It’s very, very exciting.”