Updated: 06/13/2013 06:54 | By Agence France-Presse

Australian swimming 'steadily' from Cuba to Florida

Australian endurance star Chloe McCardel leapt into the sea Wednesday to try to swim nonstop from Cuba to the US state of Florida, boldly seeking to become the first to do so without a shark cage.

Australian swimming 'steadily' from Cuba to Florida

Australian swimmer Chloe McCardel dives from Marina Hemingway in Havana, on June 12, 2013. McCardel became the latest swimmer to attempt to cross from Cuba to the US state of Florida, during which she will have to brave strong currents, jellyfish and sharks.

The 29-year-old, also attempting the feat without flippers or a wetsuit, plunged into the sea at Havana's Marina Hemingway at 10:00 am (1400 GMT) at the start of a 170-kilometer (105-mile) swim.

She has said she hopes to complete the swim across the Florida Straits in around 60 hours.

"The team is pumped. The water is flat. The winds are calm. The currents are pushing towards Key West. 10:00 Start. It's GO TIME PEOPLE!" organizers tweeted.

An hour into the crossing, her team said: "seas are calm, skies are clear."

As the swimmer pressed on into the journey likely to force her to brave strong currents, jellyfish and sharks, her team posted on her Facebook page that "Chloe is moving steadily along.

"She is currently approximately 7nm -- 8 miles -- 13km off of the coast. In 3.5 hours of swimming her average speed is 2.25mph/ 3.7kph," they wrote.

In a later posting, the team said McCardel was 12 miles off the coast of Havana.

McCardel, who was awarded the Channel Swimming Association's Sotiraki Cup in both 2011 and 2012, said she hoped to set a world record and draw attention to the decades-long political divide between the United States and communist Cuba.

"I would like to encourage great relations between Cuba and the US and would like to encourage many tourists from around the world to come and visit this beautiful country," McCardel said ahead of the swim.

She is also raising money for cancer charities, after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when the swimmer was 14.

McCardel said she would cover her body in a type of grease to protect herself from sun and cold and would be fed every 30 minutes with a special liquid nutrition drink with vitamins and minerals.

If she can hold out and make the crossing, McCardel will set a new record in unassisted nonstop distance swimming, breaking the record set by fellow Australian Penny Palfrey, who failed in an attempt last year to swim across the same straits.

Many swimmers have tried but failed at making the same crossing. The most recent was American Diana Nyad, 63, who abandoned her bid earlier this year, plagued by storms, hypothermia and jellyfish.

Fellow Aussie Susan Maroney is the first and only person to have swum across the straits. She did so in 1997, at age 22, but used a shark cage for the mammoth effort.

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