A French-American man has given up his attempt to be the first to swim across the Pacific Ocean after a storm broke the mainsail of his support ship, organizers said Monday. Ben Lecomte, who had completed about 1,500 nautical miles of the more than 5,000-mile journey, called the premature end to the swim a deep disappointment, reports the AP. "We've faced treacherous winds, rain, and ocean swells that have forced us to alter our course, and the irreparable damage to the sail is an insurmountable blow," he said in a news release. The announcement was made by Seeker, a San Francisco-based online science publisher that partnered with Lecomte and has been documenting his attempt.
Lecomte, of Austin, Texas, set out on June 5 from Japan's Pacific coast and was swimming an average of eight hours a day. Violent storms had already forced him to interrupt the swim after 500 nautical miles and return to Japan in late July. The mainsail broke on Nov. 10. The damaged ship and Lecomte are slowly making their way to Hawaii. They are collecting data on plastic pollution in the ocean, one of the scientific aims of the swim. In a June profile, the BBC reported the 51-year-old swam across the Atlantic 20 years ago, managing 4,000 miles in 73 days. When he reached France's shores, his first words were reportedly "never again." (Read more about his preparations here.)