ONE of the world’s most difficult record-breaking challenges is going to be attempted and a small New Forest town has played a major role.

In spring 2017, French-American architect Benoit ‘Ben’ Lecomte, 49, will attempt to be the first person to swim the Pacific Ocean.

Ben’s support boat, Discoverer, has been bought, refurbished and restored in Lymington and is currently berthed in Berthon Boatyard.

Discoverer is 67 feet long and has a steel hull. It was designed for the Global Challenge, a round-the-world race against the prevailing wind and current.

In 1998, Ben was the first man to swim 3,716 miles across the Atlantic Ocean without a kick board, which he did in 73 days, but this time he will be swimming 5,500 nautical miles.

The yacht with a crew of six, including Captain James Scott, will leave Lymington in a week’s time and sail to the Caribbean where Ben will join them to undertake some swim tests.

The boat will then carry on through the Panama Canal to San Diego where it will be restocked for its Pacific crossing.

The yacht will then sail to Japan, and from there Ben will swim back to California.

Ben told the Daily Echo: “I am passionate about swimming in open waters and over the years what I have noticed was a change in the environment with the all the plastic and the loss of sea life.

"I would like to use this swim as a platform to highlight all the environmental issues and we are doing that with our scientific partners.”

Asked about the danger of shark attacks, Ben said: “They will be there. I had a shark following me for five days when I swam the Atlantic.

"But I wore a device attached to my ankle which creates a magnetic field. Sharks are sensitive to this and it keeps them at bay.

"I hope to see sharks, though, if we don’t see sharks it will not be a good sign. It will mean that there is a big issue, more than we are now aware.”

Ben says the swim will likely take about six months in total. He intends to swim eight hours a day, with each day as long as the weather and his health permits.

One of the biggest challenges, he says, is keeping strong mentally: “It is mind over matter before going in the water; I have a schedule of things that I am going to think about."

For more information and to follow the progress of Ben and the Discoverer visit