Most of my friends think I’m crazy for wanting to swim across Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour in winter – and to be honest, they might be right. While the mighty Victoria Harbour is the pride of Hong Kong – flanked by the city’s towering skyline – the water quality is anything but. Floating pieces of garbage and slicks of ferry oil dot the waters between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, and that’s just pollutants you can see. Despite the threat of swallowing garbage or contracting an ear infection, I found myself jumping at the opportunity to enter my first Cross Harbour swimming race this year. The last time the event was held in 2018, and I screwed my nose up at the thought of swimming in the harbour. But a lot has changed in the past few years. Firstly, thanks strangely enough to Covid-19, I am now more comfortable being in the open water. I’ve been an avid pool swimmer since I was a child, but the coronavirus forced me out of the comfort of Hong Kong’s aquatic centres and into the ocean, after the government shut down facilities for a large part of 2020 because of pandemic restrictions. Cross-harbour swim back in heart of city as water gets cleaner While swimming regularly in the ocean terrified me at first, the open water is where I found a unique sense of freedom and exhilaration that I have never felt in a pool. The main driver, however, for why I will be jumping into Victoria Harbour on Sunday morning comes down to one simple idea. Why the hell not? Like many, I have been stuck in this city for two years, so I figure in pandemic-era Hong Kong, where the threat of new restrictions looms, you have to get your thrills where you can find them. At this point, it feels like I’ve climbed almost every mountain and swam at every beach in Hong Kong – I’ve even started entering running races (and trust me, I’m no runner). So, when it was announced that the Cross Harbour swim – cancelled for the past two years because of protests then the pandemic – was going to be held, I leapt at the opportunity to see the city’s magnificent skyline from a different perspective. The Hong Kong Cross Harbour swimming race is steeped in history. The first racers took to the harbour water more than a century ago, and from 1906 to the 1970s the event drew the city’s swimming enthusiasts in droves, all jostling to be at the front of the swimming pack. After a long hiatus, the race came back to life in 2011, seeing thousands once again take to the water every year. This year’s event is only the second mass-participation sporting event in Hong Kong to be approved by the government amid Covid-19 fears in the past two years. It comes after the Hong Kong marathon in October. In 2018, more than 4,000 people swam across the harbour. Because of the pandemic, entries for this year’s swim have been slashed by more than 60 per cent to 1,500. All competitors must be fully vaccinated and have taken a Covid-19 test. I was lucky enough to be selected to swim, after completing a 1.5km time trial. So, this Sunday, I will jump in the waters off Wan Chai near the exhibition centre and swim about 1km to Tsim Sha Tsui. Wetsuits are optional in this winter race, but I will be leaving mine at home because (you guessed it) why the hell not? I want the full experience of swimming across the harbour, and for me that includes feeling the full force of the cold winter waters. So, am I really crazy? Maybe. But will it be a swim I will remember for the rest of my life? There’s no doubt. So all being well, come Sunday morning I will be among the hundreds of swimmers cruising across the harbour, brimming with the feeling of excitement, friendly competition and joy – something we’ve all been in desperate need of over these past two years.