A group of lawyers have become the first all-Hong-Kong relay team to swim the English Channel, raising over HK$1.3 million for a local children’s swimming charity in the process.

Eliza Chang, Alan Che and Eugene Wong took to the water in the early hours of September 6 for a journey of more than 60 kilometres (37 miles) from near Dover to near Calais. The team, swimming one hour in turn, completed the journey in 13 hours and 48 minutes.

splash English channel swim
Photo: Supplied.

The swim proved to be a gruelling ordeal. “There were times during our respective legs when each of us thought of giving up, whether because of pitch darkness, the cold and choppy waters, the fierce gusts, the unforgiving seasickness, the cramping limbs, the injured shoulders or otherwise,” said Chang, the team captain.

Che said he hoped their success would inspire children to follow in their footsteps. “We’re grateful that our project will allow hundreds of underprivileged children and children with special needs in Hong Kong the opportunity to learn to swim and gain a love for the water.

“We also hope some may be inspired to become competitive or long-distance swimmers some day.”

Wong thanked family, friends and colleagues who supported them, as well as those who donated to their cause.

English channel swim splash
The team’s trajectory. Although the distance between Dover and Calais is 35 km, the team swam 60 km due to tides and high winds. Photo: Supplied via Google Maps.

Among the donors were Friends of Asia Hong Kong, the Hung Hing Ying and Leung Hau Ling Charitable Foundation and members of the public .

The three work at firms Cheng Yeung & Co, Wong Hui & Co, and Mayer Brown.

Big Splash

Libby Alexander, co-founder and executive director of the Splash Foundation told HKFP that the funds raised by the Channel swim would help provide local children with an essential life skill.

“We are thrilled that Eliza, Eugene and Allen chose to raise money for Splash’s kids programmes,” she said. “The reality is there are thousands of kids in Hong Kong who don’t learn how to swim simply because their family doesn’t have the money for lessons. Knowing how to swim is a life skill and everyone should have the chance to learn.”

“It is the only sport that can save your life, but beyond that, it is a lifelong activity that benefits people both physically and mentally,” Alexander said separately. “This swim has a big impact symbolically to people in Hong Kong and in terms of the number of kids we are able to reach in the coming years.”

Established in 2015, it is the only charity in Hong Kong providing swimming programmes for the city’s underprivileged and special needs children. It has helped nearly 3,000 children and foreign domestic helpers learn how to swim.

The English Channel, known as the “Everest of open water swimming”, poses a tough challenge for swimmers. The average relay crossing time last year was 12 hours and 46 minutes. The shortest distance between the two shores is 35 kilometres but the Hong Kong team had to travel further due to tides and high winds.

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.