More than 2,600 men and women braved chilly waters in Repulse Bay to kick off the new year with a splash. For its 40th year, the New Year Winter Swimming Lifesaving Championships sent participants on a 600-metre swim from Middle Bay Beach on Hong Kong Island to Repulse Bay Jetty. Swimmers could enter either a competition category or a leisure category. The 2,641 participants included the oldest participant, an 81-year-old veteran with some 30 years of winter swimming experience, and the youngest, a six year old boy who splashed into the sea for the first time. A number of physically and mentally handicapped individuals also participated. The swimmers took to the waters at 10.30am today and were on the watch by life guards on canoes throughout the cruise. The event was organised by The Hong Kong Life Saving Society , a non-profit group seeking to combat aquatic-related accidents. The society prepared prizes for winners of the six groups within the competition category. At 81, Leung Bing-siu was the oldest participant, and he shared his simple philosophy for staying fit with Cable TV news. “Good health is everything,” said Leung. “It requires robust health to go to work. So try to swim every morning to stay fit,” he advises. Yen Kai-him won the Men’s Open category in 7 minutes and 3 seconds, and Mak Lei-ling topped the the Women’s Open category in 7 minutes and 17 seconds. But the beautiful sunshine, fresh air and memorable experience proved the reward for all, who were greeted with blessings from the “Money God” at the finish line.