Sun August 19, 2012 1:22pm
VETERAN US endurance swimmer Diana Nyad has set off on her fourth attempt to swim the treacherous waters from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.
Nyad, who turns 63 on Wednesday, hit the water at 0542 AEST on Sunday. The departure was pushed up a day over fears of poor weather.
Wearing a blue and black bathing suit and a blue swim cap, the swimmer briefly thanked her assistants, the journalists watching and others.
"Thanks for coming," she said, adding the single word "courage," before she jumped in for the 165km trek that she projects will take some 60 hours.
Nyad admitted earlier to feeling nervous.
"I think it's healthy. When you have a respect for something, you have some fear," the swimmer told reporters at the Marina Hemingway, the Havana yacht club where she started the swim.
"There is some fear, but there's also courage, and these three days, I need the courage to be stronger than the fear," she said, adding that she couldn't sleep all night in anticipation.
Accompanying Nyad is a team of 50 people in five yachts, including divers with extensive shark experience and jellyfish experts.
She has refused to use the shark cage, saying the protective device gives a boost to a swimmer's strokes.
The head of Cuba's Swimming Federation explained to AFP that the cage "makes turbulence" in the water, which significantly helps the swimmer.
But during the swim, Nyad was flanked by two kayakers fending off sharks. On top of her Voyager escort boat, a shark expert kept a lookout as well, her team wrote on her blog.
"Diana swimming strong," it said an hour and a half into the swim.
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