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City Weekend

Expat eyeing record for swimming around Hong Kong Island wants to make splash for charity

Simon Holliday will attempt the 45km route on November 11 to raise HK$1 million for charity group Splash, which teaches domestic workers to swim

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 August, 2017, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 12:04pm

A British expat is hoping to set a new record for swimming around Hong Kong Island in one go.

Simon Holliday, 39, a learning and development manager for a Hong Kong law firm, plans to complete the 45km route without taking a break on November 11 in a bid to raise HK$1 million for his charity Splash, which offers free swimming lessons for the city’s domestic workers and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

There is no official record for swimming around Hong Kong Island, but the challenge was first attempted by former Australian Olympic swimmer Linda McGill on May 23, 1974. The then 29-year-old swam 48km in 17 hours, complaining at the time that her main problem was “boredom and jellyfish”.

Holliday, who has lived in the city for four years, said he wanted to attempt another major swimming challenge after successfully swimming 35km from Hong Kong to Macau in 2014, as well as swimming about the same distance across the English Channel in 2011.

“It is further than I have ever swum before,” he said. “But it is not too far. We thought it would be a good way to get the message out about Splash.

“From a personal point of view, Hong Kong is my home now; I love this place and I plan to be here a lot longer. The thought of seeing my home by swimming around places like North Point and Shek O – it felt like a really nice thing to do. Although I’ll admit, I’m not sure it will be nice when I’m actually doing it!”

Holliday will begin his daunting journey in the early hours of November 11 at the Sai Wan swimming shed, and take a clockwise route around Hong Kong Island. Members of his team will follow his progress in two boats.

He is in talks with a host of Olympic swimming talent to join him in the water in four-hour intervals. They are expected to swim alongside him for about 500 metres each, in a show of support.

To set an official record, Holliday must adhere to Channel Swimming Association rules such as by wearing shorts as opposed to a wetsuit, wearing just one swimming hat and a pair of goggles, and not touching any of his team’s boats. He is permitted to stop to tread water and eat snacks if they are thrown to him in the water.

He said that he was particularly nervous about swimming close to Chai Wan, as “the tides can be quite aggressive”, and Cape D’Aguilar, which “can be tricky too”.

Since 2014, volunteer coaches at Splash have taught more than 700 domestic workers, most of whom are from the Philippines and Indonesia, to swim.

Holliday is currently looking to expand the scope of the charity to teach even greater numbers of such workers.

“In terms of Splash, it has been a remarkable journey,” he said. “We want to make it sustainable. I have always thought I was very fortunate to be able to swim and I have always wanted to give that to other people.”