Cross-harbour swim: 600 more places available in Hong Kong’s annual event as organisers vow to step up safety measures
One additional medical boat will be on site for the event, held on October 21, with more swimmers being able to take part in the leisure group race
Hong Kong’s annual cross-harbour swimming race will allow more competitors and feature extra safety measures this year, organisers said on Monday.
The New World Harbour Race 2018, which will be held on October 21, has raised its quota in the leisure group from 2,400 to 3,000, with an additional medical boat being added. The quota for the racing group will remain the same as last year at 600 – bringing the overall total to 3,600 competitors.
“We also encourage swimmers to call for help if they are in trouble,” David Chiu Chin-hung, chairman of the organising committee and honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association, said at a press briefing on Monday.
“Just lay on your back, hold to the tow float and raise your hand for help. It’s OK. [There is] no shame,” Chiu said.
Swimmers who take part in the race’s leisure category are required to wear an orange tow float.
There will be six medical boats on site this year, as well as about 200 lifeguards on duty, he added.
The racing time will also be extend by 30 minutes to 2½ hours this year.
“We will start at 8am and send swimmers in batches so we won’t overwork the lifeguards,” Chiu said. “The ratio of lifeguards to racers will be the same since the racing time is longer.”
“I think the major problem is they don’t have enough lifeguards now,” said Ng Wai-man, a swimming coach and member of the Hong Kong Swimming Association. “Increasing the number of lifeguards is much more useful than adding one medical boat.”
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A man and a woman participating in the leisure group drowned in the race in 2016, leading to heavy criticism of the organiser, which updated its safety measures, such as adding medical boats.
New participants in the leisure group are also now required to wear a different colour of swimming cap from those who took part in past races, the organiser said.
All participants – both in racing and leisure group – have to enter a time trial in early September, and those failing to complete the 1.5km within 45 minutes would be disqualified. Competitors in the racing group will also be chosen according to their speed in the trial. Those who took part in the past two years’ races and trials are exempt from the time trial.
The race will take place from Tsim Sha Tsui Public Pier to Wan Chai’s Golden Bauhinia Square Public Pier, continuing last year’s route change to commemorate the iconic event.
First held in 1906, the race is one of the city’s most celebrated sports events. It originally covered a 1.6km route between Tsim Sha Tsui and the former Queen’s Pier in Central. The competition took a 33-year break from 1978 to 2010 due to fears over rising water pollution levels amid the city’s rapid development.
Since resuming in 2011, the race route has run between Lei Yue Mun in east Kowloon and Sai Wan Ho on Hong Kong Island, a distance of 1.5km.
The race will be open for registration from Tuesday June 12 to August 1.