Benoit Lecomte: The Swimming Activist

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Activist Swimmer

Benoit Lecomte is a French-born long-distance swimmer and environmental activist whose adventures have taken him across oceans, through storms and into shark-infested waters

"My next mission will be a 300-nautical-mile swim through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch."

In 1998, accompanied by a sailboat with an electromagnetic field designed to ward off sharks, Lecomte attempted to become the first person to swim the Atlantic ocean without a kickboard. The 3,716-mile journey took 73 days to complete. An achievement that's even more impressive when you consider Lecomte is an architect and not a professional athlete.

We caught up with Benoit back in 2019 as he was preparing for his next challenge.

Why do you swim?

I swim to highlight the issues of marine plastic pollution and raise awareness about the tenuous state of our oceans. My next mission will be a 300-nautical-mile swim through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Weighing nearly 90,000 tonnes, this island of plastic waste is six times the size of the UK and can be found floating in the ocean between Hawaii and California. I'll be collecting samples and data to contribute towards the global scientific knowledge on this extraordinary toxic mass.

I'll swim 300 nautical miles in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (one nautical mile for every million tonnes of plastic produced per year). Once I've done 300 nautical miles in the patch, I'll swim to California. I can't wait to get started!

Throughout the mission I'll collect data and samples to contribute to the common global scientific knowledge and spread the message about marine plastic pollution. I hope it inspires people to take action and make changes in their daily life to reduce marine plastic pollution.

"Every day I run, swim, bike and plank. Best-case scenario, I train between three to five hours per day."

How are you preparing for the swim?

Every day I run, swim, bike and plank. Best-case scenario, I train between three to five hours per day, but since I'm working to partially fund the expedition it can be difficult to stick to this schedule. Once I get closer to the expedition, I'll stop working and start training full-time.

In terms of nutrition, I don't eat any refined sugar and try to minimise my meat intake. For breakfast I have coffee, eggs, fruits and some wholewheat bread. I rarely eat lunch, but have two meals for dinner! This is the regiment I have to follow when I swim – I can't eat lunch while I'm in the water, and stopping to do so and then taking time for the food to digest is just too time-consuming – so I get my body used to it while I'm on land.

"Swimming just for swimming is not interesting, there needs to be a greater goal and a higher purpose."

What about mental preparations?

I meditate for 15-30 minutes every morning – a ritual I started before I swam the Atlantic. Visualisation techniques really help when I’m swimming so every morning during my meditation session, I do some visualisation exercises. I never listen to music to put me in the mood. Instead, I go into a quiet and relaxing place in my mind.

Rest is also very important and I make sure I sleep at least eight hours every night and even more during expeditions.

Any final thoughts?

Swimming just for swimming is not interesting, there needs to be a greater goal and a higher purpose. Marine pollution and plastic in particular is a huge issue that is going to affect everybody no matter your geography and social status, the only way to solve this problem is for each one of us to take action.  

Benoit set off with a nine-strong team – including a doctor, cook, and scientists – in June 2019. Benoit swam through rubbish for eight hours a day for 80 days, covering 338 nautical miles (626km).

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