Last updated: 11 October, 2014

Israeli swimmers battle plastic bags to take open water record

Six Israelis on Saturday claimed the world open water relay record after swimming 380 kilometres (236 miles) home from Cyprus in a challenge also meant to highlight ocean pollution.

One of the obstacles they faced while swimming from the Mediterranean island to the Israeli coast was the proliferation of floating plastic bags.

The men, aged 42 to 66, had left at noon Sunday from the Cypriot resort town of Paphos, accompanied by a support vessel also equipped to document their feat for a crack at the Guinness Book of World Records.

Their eyes were set on a 366-kilometre record held by Americans, swimmer Oded Rahav told journalists in Herzliya.

Swimming day and night in one-hour relays, with one team-mate watching at any given time and the others resting, they arrived in Rishon LeTsion late Friday.

The men had made a previous attempt on the record last year, but a storm forced them to abandon it midway.

This time, aside from jellyfish, curious dolphins and water temperatures a bit chilly for only swimming trunks, the main obstacle was a plague of plastic bags.

“To swim through plastic bags is humiliating and intolerable,” one of them said. “The sea should be a sanctuary for all and conserved for all.”