December 16, 2016 / 1:04 PM / 8 months ago

British man calls off attempt to swim Atlantic

Ben Hooper, 38, looks out to sea before starting a swim across the Atlantic from Dakar, Senegal, November 13, 2016.Emma Farge/Files

DAKAR (Reuters) - A British man aiming to become the first person to swim across the Atlantic said on Friday that he has called off his attempt after a support vessel suffered extensive damage.

Former policeman Ben Hooper, 38, left Senegal on Nov. 13 in a bid to swim 2,000 miles (3,200 km) to Brazil. He said he was inspired by explorers like Ranulph Fiennes, who crossed the Antarctic on foot.

Friends and former crew members said the bid was foolhardy and Hooper quickly fell far behind schedule as he encountered sharks in choppy waters and suffered from jellyfish stings and insufficient rations. [nL8N1DW31D]

Hooper said damage from a storm to his support vessel, a catamaran called Big Blue, had forced him to postpone the trip after swimming 87 miles in 33 days. At that pace, the crossing would have taken more than two years.

"We have NOT failed; we have achieved and gained the knowledge to succeed in the future," Hooper said in a statement, adding that he and his team would sail to Natal in Brazil by the shortest route possible.

Before setting out, Hooper vowed that if his mission failed, he would try again "as long as I have at least one leg and one arm".

Reporting By Sophia Shadid; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Ed Osmond

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