Living heritage of Hong Kong

Celebrities and officials among competitors braving strong currents for Hong Kong’s 2018 Victoria Harbour swim

  • More than 3,000 take part this year in race from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island
  • Taiwanese swimmer Cho Cheng-chi clocks up fastest time
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 October, 2018, 3:20pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 October, 2018, 10:23pm

Victoria Harbour was full of bobbing heads and orange tow floats on Sunday as thousands braved choppy waters for the annual swim from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island – one of the city’s most celebrated sporting events.

At about 8am the first elite swimmers took the plunge into the usually bustling transport artery for the 1km race from Tsim Sha Tsui public pier to Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai.

The fastest contestants managed to cross the harbour in just under 11 minutes.

Following them were 3,000 more leisurely swimmers including teenagers, celebrities and government officials.

Sea surface temperatures stood at about 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) in North Point at 7am, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.

The fastest swimmer of the day was Taiwanese competitor Cho Cheng-chi in the international men’s group, who completed the course in just 10 minutes and 45.6 seconds.

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In the international women’s division, fellow Taiwanese Wang Yi-chen beat the competition with a time of 12 minutes, 4.7 seconds.

Keith Sin Chin-ting nabbed the fastest time in the men’s open group, at 11 minutes and 26.8 seconds.

His counterpart in the women’s group, Hannah Li Hang-fung, clocked in at 12 minutes, 26.3 seconds.

“Since the route is now a little bit shorter than it was before, a lot more explosive power is required,” Sin said. “This year, the currents were a bit stronger too so it was a bit more strenuous.”

Other swimmers also recounted a difficult but memorable struggle.

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“The waves were really big today, I lost count of how many gulps of seawater I swallowed,” joked Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong, 64, who was participating for the second year. “My swim strokes were all over the place, but I’m just glad I made it across.”

The quota for the leisure group this year was raised from the previous 2,400 swimmers to 3,000, and a sixth medical boat was deployed along the course.

First held in 1906, the race originally covered 1.6km between Tsim Sha Tsui and the former Queen’s Pier in Central. But it took a 33-year hiatus from 1978 to 2010 due to water pollution.

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On resuming in 2011, the event was held on the cleaner, eastern side of the harbour – between Lei Yue Mun on the east Kowloon peninsula and Sai Wan Ho on Hong Kong Island. The swim covered 1.5km.

However, last year the water quality in the central section of Victoria Harbour was deemed safe enough to move the race back to its original Tsim Sha Tsui-Central route.

This year’s organising committee said a total of 3,358 people from 11 countries and regions took part.

About 80 people had to be retrieved by safety boats after they were swept off the course by strong currents.