Swimmers dive in for the 2015 Harbour Race. Photo: Sam Tsang

Harbour Swim chaos: disqualified swimmers complain of poorly managed start as record 2,330 take part

Hear from the first woman across the line in Hong Kong’s New World Harbour Race: disqualified and disgruntled at a lack of organisation with ‘huge numbers’ of swimmers jumping the gun


Top swimmers in this year's cross-harbour race complained they were unfairly disqualified after jumping the starting gun when they could not hear it properly, with many swimmers standing beyond the starting line before the race began.

They were among the 2,330 local and overseas swimmers joining the fifth annual New World Harbour Race yesterday morning, splashing their way 1.5km across the harbour from Kowloon's Sam Ka Tsuen in Lei Yue Mun to Quarry Bay Park.

According to the organiser, the Amateur Swimming Association, 48 swimmers were disqualified from the race.

Fiona Chan On-yi crossed the finish line first in the Women's Open Race Group A - for competitors aged 17 to 35 - but was disqualified. She said the race arrangements were very chaotic.

"There were too many groups starting together and everyone was standing beyond the starting line," said Chan, who won in the same category last year.

Chan said she didn't hear the gun, but since many swimmers had already started, she followed.

READ MORE: Traffic jams, confusion grind cyclists' gear as Hong Kong's first Cyclothon draws thousands for historic ride across Tsing Ma Bridge

As Chan was talking to reporters after the race, a staff member from the race organiser repeatedly tugged on her left arm, asking her to discuss her concerns with the association instead.

Chan left briefly to file her complaint then returned to say the organiser told her to write a letter of complaint.

Li Chun-hong, who came home second in the Men's Open Race Group A, was also disqualified.

"I'm an experienced swimmer with a world ranking, but this is the first time I saw such a disorganised competition," he said.

David Chiu Chin-hung, chairman of the organising committee, admitted the arrangements had room for improvement and would be reviewed.

"There was obviously a huge group of people who jumped the gun," Chiu said. "They are all disqualified and will not have their results or certificates."

The quota for this year's race was up 500 from last year's 2,000 places, and two new categories were added.

Brazilian swimmers Allan Do Carmo and Ana Marcela Cunha picked up the trophies in the International Group men's race and International Group women's respectively.

"The quality of the water was very good and the temperature perfect," Do Carmo said through a translator. "There weren't too many waves and that helped."

Leung Yuen-ying, at 73 one of the oldest participants, was happy to be swimming with her 40-year-old daughter.

"When my daughter was young I made her train in the sport, and now she's the one encouraging me," Leung said.

Wong Kin-ming, a 57-year-old poliomyelitis patient, was taking part for the fourth time.

"The waves weren't so strong this year but there was more litter such as bottles and plastic bags," he said.

"But though I feel physically tired, my heart was free."

This is the second marathon within a week to be criticised for poor management. Photo: K.Y. Cheng
All swimmers finished within an hour and 15 minutes. The oldest swimmer was 76 and the youngest just 12.
This is the second marathon within a week to be criticised for poor management. The Hong Kong Tourism board, organisers of last week's cyclothon, admited traffic jams and confusion on the path should have been avoided with better management.

As experienced cyclists from the 35km events reached the finish line, they bottlenecked with amateur cyclists starting the 10km Community Ride. Five participants were admitted to the hospital for minor injuries.

The week prior, Action Asia Events was dubbed "irresponsible" for continuing the 'Lantau 2 Peaks' competition in the midst of Typhoon Mujigae. One runner broke his arm and others were injured during the rain soaked event.