LCSD cuts back summer race events on busy Southside beaches
Multisports events in Repulse Bay, Deep Water Bay and South Bay reduced after "public complaints"
Summer, when temperatures rise and the water gets less frigid, is racing season for the city’s growing band of triathletes and multisport athletes.
But a popular aquathon race series will have to cut back on its swim-run events for the first time in over 10 years following new government rules that restrict the number of events on popular beaches in the Southern District during the months of June, July and August.
The Splash ‘N Dash Aquathon series, which race organiser Revolution Asia (revolution-asia.com) has been organising since 2004, have had to cut from three to two races, and hold both races in May (at Repulse Bay on May 10 and South Bay on May 31). Previously, there was one race in mid-May, early June and late June at either Repulse Bay or South Bay beach.
Each race typically attracts more than 500 athletes of varying ages from kids to seniors, and abilities ranging from national athletes to weekend warriors.
“We have been told by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department that they will not approve new races and events on popular beaches such as Repulse Bay, Deep Water Bay and South Bay during the summer due to complaints from the public,” says Jun Sat, Revolution Asia’s race director and business manager.
This summer, only one race has been approved so far: an aquathon organised by the Hong Kong Triathlon Association in July at Repulse Bay beach.
An LCSD spokesperson said in an e-mail: “Beaches under LCSD's management are frequented by Hong Kong people and visitors throughout the year both for recreation and tourism. The patronage of these beaches is very high during summer months.
“To strike a balance between the needs of different stakeholders, applications from organisations to hold various types of programmes (including sports events) must be considered very carefully, especially for popular venues such as South Bay Beach, Deep Water Bay Beach and Repulse Bay Beach in the Southern District.
“Due consideration must be given to a number of factors including beach patronage, disturbance to other swimmers and beach goers, public safety and impact on lifesaving operation, etc.”
The LCSD says other applications to hold events on the popular Southside beaches in the summer are still being processed and are not yet confirmed.
The Splash ‘N Dash races, says Jun Sat, are designed to take up as little public space as possible, and are executed so as not to adversely affect the public.
The Repulse Bay race, for example, only takes up the western corner of the beach, which includes a pier area and sea promenade. Race set-up happens at 6am, the races are held between 8.30am and 10.30am, and by 11am it's all packed up and no trace of the event is left behind.
“We ensure that pedestrians are not blocked throughout the course of the race,” says Jun Sat. “The swimming leg is also out of the way of the public, since it’s done along the inside of the shark net, and we do not use any of the swimming area within the orange buoys.”
Aquawiz, another local organiser of aquathons and triathlons, remains unaffected by the LCSD’s new rules since they have not planned any races on the popular Southside beaches this summer.
Andrew Wright, director and triathlon coach of 26 Coaching, has participated along with his trainees in many Splash ‘N Dash races over the years. He says racing encourages and motivates athletes, especially the young ones, to train and keeps them involved in the sport.
“Usually the races are very early in the morning. At that time members of the public are rarely on the beach from what I have seen,” says Wright, a former Hong Kong national triathlete. “With the limited number of locations to hold sports events in Hong Kong, it is an unfortunate decision [by the LCSD] and will have a negative impact on participation.”
Conversely, Wright says he’ll have to cut down on his swim-run coaching on Repulse Bay Beach because there are too many tourists, who arrive by the busload. “It’s not possible to train there anymore,” he says.
The LCSD spokesperson says: “It is our standing practice to encourage event organisers to hold their events in the non-peak swimming season (March to May and September to November) or at beaches with lower patronage.
“Applications for holding events in summer months (June to August) are normally not considered except with very strong justification and clear evidence showing that the impact on other beach users and public safety has been taken into account during event arrangement.
“In such cases, additional conditions will be imposed. For instance, we may require the event to be concluded in the morning when the patronage is still not high, and that the event should not affect rescue operation and other swimmers.
“In line with our established rules and procedures, National Sports Associations (NSA) may submit their applications one year in advance whereas other bona fide organisations may submit their applications three months in advance.
“In case of schedule clashes, applications will be processed according to the order of priority of booking as set out in LCSD’s booking procedures and NSAs will be accorded higher priority.”
Revolution Asia’s goal is to encourage more families to join in sporting events in Hong Kong, says Jun Sat. “The [LCSD’s] procedure and policies are becoming less friendly for sports race organisers,” he says.