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10 Records: above and below water

Few things embody the myth of adventure like the sea. The vastness of the sea has always been an irresistible attraction for man, and whether it is the song of Homer's sirens or the intrinsic charm of the unfathomable depths, the sea is par excellence a place of challenges that continue to be constantly renewed. Today we tell you about some of the most incredible records related to water, won by sailors and swimmers, but also by "lords of the abyss”.

1. Swimming around Britain

Imagine that you are swimming for about 2865 kilometres in the sea, amidst jellyfish and chilling temperatures. This is Ross Edgley's 33-year-old, feat of circumnavigating Britain with the strength of his arms alone: a 156-day feat equivalent to 85 crossings of the English Channel. Edgley swam for an average of 12 hours a day, burning between 10,000 and 15,000 calories a day and leaving the water only to sleep on a supporting catamaran.
He faced the currents, the bad weather, the jellyfish attacks (one hit him in the face), he brought back an extensive infection of his tongue due to the continuous contact with the salt water and, for a while, he was also flanked by a whale. He left on June 1, 2018 from Margate, Kent, and touched the ground again on November 4, thus becoming the first man to establish this record.

2. The race with the most dangerous sea areas

This is the famous Vendée Globe, whose next edition will start on Sunday, November 8, 2020. Born in 1989 from the desire of the sailor Philippe Jeantot, it is a regatta that provides the complete circumnavigation of the globe, solo, without the possibility of mooring and external assistance. Jeantot wanted to set it up to offer the most experienced sailors a challenging competition and today it is open to all single-hull yachts that meet the parameters of the Open 60 class. The race takes place from November to February, so that participants can face the Antarctic seas – which are particularly difficult due to the weather conditions and the presence of icebergs - during the relatively mildest period of the southern winter.
Starting from Les Sables-d'Olonne, on the Atlantic coast of France, we head to Antarctica via the Cape of Good Hope, from where we head east to Cap Leeuwin and Cape Horn, and then head north to the starting point. Since the competitors cannot receive assistance, the number of retreats during the race is always high and all participants are required to have a proven track record of solo navigation and knowledge of survival techniques. If you want to experience the thrills of the race while staying safe at home, we recommend that you retrieve Derek Lundy's book Inside the Hurricane, which tells how the Vendée Globe transcends the sporting challenge and becomes a true existential experience.

3. The deepest dive with cylinders

The record for the deepest dive in the sea with cylinders is held by the Egyptian Ahmed Gabr, who went down to a depth of 332.35 meters off Dahab (Egypt), in the Red Sea. Gabr trained for years in preparation for the feat: the dive lasted 13 hours and 50 minutes, of which 14 minutes were taken by the athlete to reach the bottom, while the rest of the time was used to complete the ascent and the decompression process.

4. Records in freediving

Even more difficult and risky is apnea, a discipline that requires extraordinary physical and mental skills. The maximum underwater depth in apnea (no limits dive) was reached by the Austrian Herbert Nitsch, who on June 6, 2012 managed to reach -253 meters, even if the record cost him an illness that forced him into treatment in intensive care. Nitsch is considered by many to be the greatest freediver ever and has unique physical qualities: he can expand his lungs to a volume of over 15 litres and hold his breath for more than 9 minutes.
The record of static apnea set in 2018 by Croatian Budimir Šobat was born with a charitable purpose: to raise public awareness on the issue of autism, which affects his daughter, Šobat held his breath for 24 minutes and 11 seconds, beating by 7 seconds the previous record, set by Spanish Aleix Segura. This result was made possible by ventilation with pure oxygen and was achieved in a swimming pool at the Zagreb Fair.

5. The ascent without equipment

A rather singular record is held by the American submarine bomber Richard A. Slater who, on September 28, 1970, following a splash immediately off the island of Catalina, California, managed to get out of the hull of the submarine that was at -68.6 meters and return to the surface, miraculously saving himself.

6. The highest wave ever ridden

To surf you have to combine athletic skills, passion for the sea and strong swimming skills. To ride the giant waves, real walls of water of tens of meters, you have to add experience, courage and a certain dose of unconsciousness. The record for the highest wave ever ridden was won by Brazilian Rodrigo Koxa on 8 November 2018 in Nazaré, a Portuguese town famous for its giant waves.
The judges determined that Koxa surfed on a wave of 24.38 meters, beating the record of 23.77 meters held by Hawaiian Garrett McNamara. In December of the same year, British athlete Tom Butler announced that he had surfed on a 30-metre wave, again in Nazaré: if the performance were validated, it would be his world record for the highest wave ever.

7. Extreme swimming: the polar record

Still on the subject of experiences that go to the limit of human possibilities, the record for polar swimming belongs to Lewis Pugh, a British lawyer with a passion for extreme swimming. Pugh likes to be called the "protector of the oceans" and his deeds are driven by a spirit that combines philanthropy, ecology and desire for discovery in an attempt to raise public awareness of ecosystems at risk. The company that earned him the record is the 5 Swims in Antarctica for 1 Reason, which took place in the Ross Sea.
Pugh dived five times, challenging environmental conditions that would have put at risk the survival of anyone, was chased by a sea lion, suffered winds at -40 ° and an outside temperature of -37 °. The record came with the second dive, during which he swam 500 meters in the water at -1.7 °: an enormous amount if you think that the human body freezes at -1.9 ° and that the pain of such cold water when it comes into contact with the skin, is piercing.

8. The longest swim in a river

Continuing with the record of resistance, the record for the longest distance covered by swimming in a river is the Slovenian Martin Strel, called "the fish man". In his career, he has collected the distance of 3004 kilometres on the Danube, travelled in 58 days, the 3797 kilometres along the Mississippi in 68 days and then 5400 kilometres on the Amazon River in 66 days.

9. Solo world tours

The fastest solo world tour record is held by a very talented young transoceanic sailor, Francois Gabart. Frenchman, born in 1983, nicknamed "the blonde of the oceans", in 2017 Gabart set the record for the fastest non-stop round-the-world trip ever, with a time of 42 days, 14 hours, 40 minutes and 15 seconds. He covered a total of 27,859.7 real miles, at an average speed of 27.2 knots, on board the maxi trimaran with Macif foil, capable of "flying over water". Gabart says that he hasn't slept practically during the whole undertaking, that he has only fed on freeze-dried products and that he has never taken a shower. A sacrifice that allowed him to exceed by six days the record previously set by Thomas Coville.
The record for the solo, nonstop world tour with the smallest boat ever belongs to the Polish Szymon Kuczyński, who, with a small boat of only 6.36 meters, called Atlantic Puffin, completed the circumnavigation that touched Africa, Australia and South America, for a total of about 29,000 kilometres, in 268 days. An undertaking that allowed him to join the exclusive club of only 80 sailors who travelled around the world alone and without a stopover.

10. The shipwreck that survived longest at sea

José Salvador Alvarenga has been the protagonist of a misadventure worthy of Robinson Crusoe: on November 17, 2012, the Salvadoran fisherman leaves for a fishing trip off the village of Costa Azul, Mexico. Alvarenga is a very experienced man from the sea and is accompanied by Ezequiél Cordoba, a 22-year-old boy who is his helper. During fishing, the two are surprised by a storm, with which they fight for a long time, they manage to return with great effort near the coast, launching an alarm that is collected by the rescue but without being able to provide the position of the boat, when the unthinkable happens: the engine breaks and the boat begins to drift, until it disappears.

Its history was collected by journalist Jonathan Franklin in the book 438 days. The incredible true story of a man who survived in the ocean, who has reconstructed in over forty-four interviews a story that could rightly find a place between The Old Man and the Sea and Moby Dick.

The shipwreck of Alvarenga and Cordoba lasts over a year, a very hard experience from which only Alvarenga will come back. He landed on Tile Island, one of the more than a thousand islands of the Marshall archipelago, 6,700 kilometres from where he left off.

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