Cuban swimmer plans three risky voyages to send a message about taking care of the oceans

Nino Fraguela, the first Cuban to have swum across the English Channelis found in Miami to organize three open water crossings with the aim of educating about the urgency of taking care of the seas.

The swimmer, born in Havana and resident in Paris for 32 years, reported that in July he will cross the Strait of Gibraltar, between Morocco and Spain; in August, the North Channel, between Scotland and Ireland; and in September, she will jump into the ocean off Catalina Island to reach San Pedro, next to Long Beach, California.

This latest test will allow him to become the first 62-year-old human being to complete the Triple Crown of open water swimming.

The two previous crossings to reach the Triple Crown, sanctioned by the World Open Water Association, were completed in September 2021 when he crossed the English Channel and in March 2022 when he achieved the second challenge with the route under the 21 bridges of Manhattan.

10 years ago, on a trip to Miami, Fraguela met Captain Manuel Rodríguez Lestón, creator of the Universo Marino foundation and a fervent defender and educator for the preservation of the oceans and marine fauna.

It was a convergent point, since Fraguela and Captain Rodríguez Lestón, natives of Havana, developed their lives around the sea. They owe him everything they have. And it was natural, even though one lived in Paris and the other in Miami, that they would join forces to fight for the same goal.

“It is true that jumping into the sea is a personal challenge, but there is the motivation to develop activities that help people become aware of the importance of caring for the oceans,” Fraguela explained. “That is why Miami is the ideal place to prepare for these voyages.”

Fraguela specified that Universo Marino and Captain Rodríguez Lestón have always supported him in the planning of his voyages, in the promotion, in the marketing and in all the details required by this type of crossings that always offer danger.

“When we met in 2014 we had the same purpose of transmitting an education to children to take care of the environment,” said Captain Rodríguez Lestón. “We wanted to give the message of protecting the oceans, the species, the seagrasses. And the best way to do it is with these challenges.”

Last August, Fraguela had planned to win the Triple Crown. Just as now he had arrived in Miami to coordinate the preparations with Captain Rodríguez Lestón and everything was ready to launch into the ocean in California.

At dawn on the designated day, a cyclone broke out and Fraguela had to stop the journey because it was too risky to continue in those conditions.

Now he thinks that he will arrive at an optimal time in the second half of the year to successfully address these three new challenges.

“The first of them will be the Strait of Gibraltar, about 19 kilometers long,” commented Fraguela. “There is a lot of fauna in that area, sharks, orcas and whales and the crossing is only allowed during the day. The dates we are considering are between July 11 and 24.”

Immediately afterwards, and as part of the celebrations of the Olympic Games in Paris 2024, Fraguela organized the Endure Man triathlon, from London to Paris, which he already did but this time he is only as a promoter.

“The second swimming challenge will be the crossing of the North Channel, which very few have crossed, because the water is very cold,” said Fraguela. “We chose August because it is the warmest month and the water temperature must be 14 degrees Celsius. It is 34 kilometers long and takes 12 hours. “The longest I have swum at that temperature is five hours.”

Fraguela revealed that there is a lot of bad water (jellyfish) in that area, very poisonous, and therefore some adjustments must be made.

“I changed my strategy, since I had gained 10 kilos to face the cold, but that difference was not important and on the contrary it made me slower,” said the swimmer. “I have already lost those 10 kilos and I have gained speed, which means that I will spend less time in cold water.”

Miami is a key point in Fraguela's preparation. He trains several hours in the Martí Park pool, at the entrance to Little Havana, and in Miami Beach with close friends from the time who made up the Cuban water polo teams, such as Juan Carlos Martínez and Lázaro Hernández, now members of the corps. Miami Beach Rescue Center.

“I have a very great motivation to meet with dear people in Miami,” Fraguela confessed. “Now the goal is not to overdo it in training, I focus on quality and not quantity because the body has memory. I am still a high-level athlete at the age I am. And I feel the mission, like Universo Marino, to transmit to young people the importance of taking care of the oceans and life in the sea.”