Posted on Feb 10, 2009, 10 a.m.
By gary clark
America's Jennifer Figge became the first woman ever to swim across the Atlantic Ocean, having left Africa's western coast on January 12 and arriving in Trinidad this past Saturday.
On a stormy trans-Atlantic flight to Italy in the 1960s, Jennifer Figge told her mother, a professional opera singer, "I hope that lightning hits the plane and we get to go down in the middle of the Atlantic and get into those cool life vests and swim the rest of the way." That experience inspired then 11-year-old Figge to dream the impossible: to swim from Africa to North America.
On Saturday, February 7, that dream came true as Figge touched the shores of a Trinidad beach after having left the Cape Verde Islands just off Africa on January 12. Confronting inclement weather throughout her journey, including 30-foot waves and strong winds, she was blown 1,000 miles off her anticipated course to the Bahamas and instead landed on a beach at an abandoned leper colony on Trinidad's Chacachacare Island.
Figge swam inside a shark-proof cage, and while she witnessed all kinds of marine life - including dozens of dolphins, turtles and a pod of pilot whales - sharks were nowhere to be seen. Her shortest stint in the water was just 21 minutes; her longest, eight hours. Some days, the water was so rough, the crew of the catamaran "Carried Away," which escorted her along her journey, couldn't even see her. On average, she burned 8,000 calories a day, requiring her to eat a diet heavy in protein and consume energy drinks thrown into the water by her crew. "I've always dreamed about being this little thing in the big ocean," she explained before her departure. "The cage is my playpen. It's like a big french fry basket," noted Jennifer, who said that throughout the swim, she never felt afraid.
Figge is already back in the water, where she is completing her odyssey by swimming from Trinidad to the British Virgin Islands. After arriving there in late February, she will head home to Aspen, Colorado. Figge's journey comes a decade after Benoit Lecomte, a French swimmer, made the first known solo trans-Atlantic swim. It took Lecomte 73 days to swim the nearly 4,000 miles from Massachusetts to France.
News Releaes: 56-year-old first woman to swim the Atlantic http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/29074647/ February 7, 2009