Hong Kong takes centre stage as first in new 'F1 series' for swimmers
Open water event in Shek O launches unique 13-race global circuit targeting all athletes
Hong Kong on Saturday launches the first race in a newly created world open water series, dubbed "a new F1 circuit for swimming".
The World Open Water Swimming Series (WOWSS), a global network of 13 races, will unlock a fresh level of competition, said event organiser Doug Woodring.
The first event, the Jax Coco Shek O Challenge, is at Big Wave Bay, with about 250 swimmers tackling the 2.2km course to Shek O back beach. Runners and paddlers also form part of the event, competing in separate events simultaneously.
"A series like this, in Hong Kong, opens up a whole new level of competition and tourism," Woodring said.
"This is like the start of a new F1 circuit for swimming - there's simply nothing else like it. Although Fina [the International Swimming Federation] does professional open water swims around the world, this is the first global swimming series for people - not just professionals."
Woodring predicted membership to the series could increase up to fourfold in the years to come.
The series spans Africa, North America, South America, Asia and Europe, and includes the iconic aQuellé Midmar Mile in South Africa and the Waikiki Roughwater swim in Hawaii.
"The Five", a 5km swim from Stanley to Repulse Bay in November, is the second Hong Kong event in the series.
"Open water swimming is a growing international sport, and a way for people to travel the world. It's a pretty cool opportunity for Hong Kong to be a part [of the series] and recognised for its incredible open water swimming, just minutes away from the iconic city," said Woodring.
The Hong Kong races were selected for their "innovative approach and focus on environmental awareness", he said.
"Our races feature music, a festival-like atmosphere and have an environmental message, partnering with the Ocean Recovery Alliance [ORA]."
The ORA raises awareness of plastics in the ocean and will also partner with the series in other events around the world.
The event's message is an important one, according to the title sponsor.
"In Hong Kong, we are surrounded by beautiful beaches and sadly see first-hand how pollution affects our waters and how much plastic is washed up on a daily basis," said Jane Gottschalk, co-director of Jax Coco.