U.S. endurance swimmer making progress on Cuba-to-Florida swim

MIAMI Sun Sep 1, 2013 5:50pm EDT

U.S. long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad is pictured before attempting to swim to Florida from Havana August 31, 2013. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

U.S. long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad is pictured before attempting to swim to Florida from Havana August 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Enrique De La Osa

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MIAMI (Reuters) - U.S. long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad forged ahead in the Florida Straits on Sunday on the second day of her latest bid to become the first person to swim from Cuba to the United States without a shark cage.

Nyad, 64, was "swimming strong" on Sunday afternoon and "getting a little favorable push from the current," according to blog updates on her website (www.diananyad.com).

The marathon swimmer is making her fifth attempt at the 103-mile crossing, this time using a protective silicone mask to better protect her from the poisonous jellyfish that forced her to end one of two attempted crossings last year.

Nyad has said the custom-made mask slows her and makes it more difficult to breath, so it could take up to three days to complete the swim.

As of 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT), she had swum more than 47 miles, the blog said. At one point she floated on her back kicking and led a crew of 35 people keeping her on course through the strong Gulf Stream current in singing "Happy Birthday" to a crew member.

Nyad departed from the Cuban capital of Havana on Saturday morning accompanied by five support boats that also provide her with food and water.

Nyad was stopping every 40 minutes to eat, taking several bites of scrambled eggs and pasta, the blog said.

The treacherous body of water known as the Florida Straits is the holy grail for marathon swimmers.

It has been conquered only once, by Australian Susie Maroney, who used a protective cage at age 22 during her 1997 swim. The cage glided on ocean currents and enabled Maroney to make the journey in just 25 hours.

Nyad's long-distance accomplishments include swimming around the island of Manhattan and a swim from the Bahamas to Florida in 1979.

(Reporting by Kevin Gray; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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