By Jean Christou
SIX ISRAELI men are making their second attempt in a year to swim 400 kilometres from Paphos to Herzliya in Israel in six days to try and make it to the Guinness Book of Records for the longest open water group relay swim.
Before they set off on Sunday afternoon, they were given a blessing by Chief Rabbi of Cyprus Arie Zeev Raskin at the Cyprus Jewish Community Centre in Larnaca. An announcement from the centre said the six would try to break the current record by a group of Americans who swam 366 kilometres in 2012.
During the attempt, each of the six athletes will swim five or six kilometres without a break while the other five teammates remain on board an accompanying yacht.
Last year, the swimmers made a similar attempt, but after three days, covering a total of 180 kilometres, they were forced to give up due to a strong storm.
“However, these brave competitors did not despair, and today they are making a second try,” said the announcement from the Jewish centre.
Earlier that day, Rabbi Raskin presided over a communal prayer service at the Larnaca synagogue where he gave them his blessing. He said the Cyprus Jewish community supported and encouraged any initiative promoting greater international understanding and tolerance among peoples and nations.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz named the six as Udi Arel, Ori Sela, Doron Amosi, Ben Anosh, Luke Shetbon and Oded Rahav. Arel is the oldest at aged 66 and Sela the youngest at 41.
It said after agreeing earlier this year to try again, the group had started training. “Last year it was a bit ‘Israeli’,” said Ori Sela, the team coach. “This time we are much wiser and better prepared.”
He said that having failed once, they would this time around be able to learn from their mistakes.
“Then, we only trained a month in advance,” said Sela. “Today, we have been in the water for months, in every type of weather. The first time we were doing it for the experience and the challenge, but this time… we want and intend to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. We need to go through a lot of hardship to get there, but they approved our route and conditions. Personally, stopping last year was very hard.”
According to the newspaper, this year each of the swimmers carried a Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip, which lets the yacht’s crew know where they are from moment to moment. They are not allowed to use any sort of protective swimming gear or suits and are each scheduled to swim four of five hours a day for the six days. And although they are more prepared this year, the weather will still be a factor in whether they will succeed.
“We will not go out in a storm, but we could very well run into very bad weather,” Sela told Haaretz. The swim is in aid of a cleaner Mediterranean.