Mayank Vaid Goes Around Hong Kong for the  Second Time, Much Faster

Mayank Vaid Goes Around Hong Kong for the Second Time, Much Faster

Shu Pu reported that Mayank Vaid completed his second HK360 Swim on October 27th.  The HK360 Swim (or HK360Swim Around Hong Kong Island) is a 45 km circumnavigation swim around Hong Kong that was conceived by Pu. “It was a tough swim especially at the halfway point and towards the end. But he endured and was able to finish and trimmed off nearly 4 hours off his 2020 time of 18 hours 8 minutes.  Below are a few finishing shots of him and his two escort swimmers to the finish.  

Photo ofMayank Vaid courtesy of Maxime Vanhollebeke for HK360Swimat start/finish atSai Wan Swimming Shed
PhotoofMayank Vaid courtesy of Maxime Vanhollebeke for HK360Swimat start/finish atSai Wan Swimming Shed
PhotoofMayank Vaid courtesy of Maxime Vanhollebeke for HK360Swim at start/finish atSai Wan Swimming Shed

This weekend on November 13th, Pu is organizing 10 relay teams going for the HK360 on the same day on behalf of charity. One of the teams is aiming to set a record for relay, as well as a Guinness World Record.  On November 28th, Li Ling Yun will be swimming around as well. She will be the third woman to attempt the swim.

Pu recalls Vaid’s second swim around Hong Kong Island. “Mayank is an accomplished ultra-triathlete and open water swimmer.  His swimming accomplishments includes a 2018 Arch2Arc 2 team relay swim with an English Channel crossing of 12 hours 24 minutes, the Ultraman Australia 2017 with a 3 hour 43 minute 10 km swim.  Mayank became the 44th and fastest person to run, swim and cycle from the Marble Arch in London to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in 50 hours 24 minutes in August 2019.

In November 2020, Mayank successfully completed the HK360Swim in just over 18 hours.  He is the first person to complete HK360Xtreme, a 45 km swim, a 215 km cycle, and a 100 km run non-stop.  He raised over HK$360,000 for two Hong Kong sports charities through his HK360Xtreme effort.

On October 27th, Mayank jumped into the water just after 2:00 am at the Sai Wan Swimming Shed and completed a clockwise circumnavigation swim around Hong Kong Island at 4:38 pm, finishing in 14 hours 35 minutes 55 seconds. Pu continued, “Sunrise was at 6:24 am, so the first 4.5 hours of swimming through Victoria Harbour was mostly in the dark.  6-12 knots of northeast winds blew throughout the day.  There were light rain showers before sunrise, and it remained overcast with some peeks of sun throughout the rest of the day with the water temperature was 22-24°C.  Typically this time of the year, the south side of the Island near the halfway point gets big swells – and there were no exceptions this time.  Mayank faced 3-4 meter swells and it was not a very comfortable section for the crew either.  He swam this section with conviction and actually gained some time from routing prediction.

The last 8 km of the swim was tough.  Mayank started experiencing aches with one of his shoulders, and had difficulty breathing due to a swollen tongue and a blocked nose.  His pace slowed down significantly, but he was able to push through and finish the swim, shaving off nearly 4 hours from his 2020 circumnavigation.

Pu first conceived the HK360Swim in 2016 – a similar distance to the 20 Bridges Swim around Manhattan Island in New York nearly a half a globe away. Pu also founded events like The Cold Half, The Cold Plunge, The D’Ag Dash, and The Hong Kong to Macau Swim.  She helps athletes realize their ambitions of setting new records and achieving personal bests, by working with a passionate and dedicated network of swimmers from beginners to elite, paddlers, first-aiders, world-class escort pilots, and routing specialists to safely bring swim expeditions and races to life.  

Pu says, “HK360 swimmers experience a seamless process that enables participants from around the globe to take on this exceedingly gorgeous and challenging swim around one of the most iconic cities in Asia.  Simultaneously, HK360Swim encourages swimmers to make their effort count towards a cause through raising awareness and fundraising for charities that are most dear to them.  Over 13 million HKD and a huge amount of awareness have been raised through the swims for Hong Kong charities.  The vision for HK360Swim is to be recognizable event among athletes worldwide as the signature swim challenge for Hong Kong, similar to the English Channel in Europe or the 20 Bridges Swim in New York City.

Vaid provided his first-hand account of the challenge, “This is the second time I have attempted the swim. The first time was in November 2020 when the swim was part of HK360Xtreme triathlon. Last year, I took over 18 hours 17 minutes to complete the circumnavigation swim. This time, I was almost 4 hours faster.

Photo courtesy of Andy Liu for HK360Swim at Sai Wan Swim Shed

The swim starts at Sai Wan Swim Shed in Kennedy Town. It is sort of the westernmost part of Hong Kong Island. The Sai Wan Swim Shed is more than 50 years old and probably the last swim shed of Hong Kong. It is exposed to the traffic separation zone and shipping traffic which bring fresh and large bow waves all the way to the stairs at the swim shed. The swim is clockwise around Hong Kong Island. This makes the swimmer travel through the Victoria Harbor and then all the way to Eastern part of Hgong Kon island. The swim turns southeast at Cape D’dag and then past South side. Finally, up the East Lamma Channel and back to Sai Wan Swim Shed.

PhotoofMayank Vaid swimming courtesy of Andy Liu for MHK360Swim
PhotoofMayank Vaid start courtesy of Andy Liu for MHK360Swim
PhotoofMayank Vaid swimming courtesy of Andy Liu for MHK360Swim

Distance wise its 42.7 km when swimming closest to shore and in straight lines. I ended up swimming 46.3 km. There are a few places in the swim where the swimmer can get caught in back eddies and some reverse tides. So, one needs a good skipper to avoid these points. Just like other swims we must sync the swim with tides. My swim start was 2:02 am.

The swim is organized by Shu Pu, an outdoor sport lover and open water enthusiast. The event needs approvals by the local Marine Department and a few other governmental agencies because of the great amount of shipping and pleasure vessel traffic in the Hong Kong waters. At a point the swimmer feels like a VIP because of the entourage of kayakers, paddlers, support swimmers, support boat, medic, observer, organizer, and marine police on marine department boats. All this for me – it is very cool.

Cooler is the beautiful scenery and diversity of landscape of Hong Kong. From swimming past world famous skyscrapers and then getting into the South China Sea, the wilderness is stunning. The water and weather conditions also change like seasons as the swim progresses. Sea conditions can get very agitated at some spots. I was blessed with a rough and choppy swim from the start all the way to finish. I could feel the full force of nature swimming past Sheko, Cape D’dag, Satellite and Round Island.

So why was I faster in my second attempt? Firstly, I started the swim without any injury. Last year’s swim was one week after Halloween. Last Halloween, I managed slice my foot with a barnacle as I swam with my boys. So, on swim date, I had six stitches on a deep wound with a warning from medic that if I swam with these stitches, I could potentially get infected and lose my leg.

Secondly, I had the chance to train in pool through 2021. Last year, pools were intermittently closed, and I could not do drills or speed workouts. Last year, I was fully reliant on open water swim training. This year, I mixed up my training in pool and open water. I had the chance to train with some very good swimmers in Hong Kong Football Club with top-class coach Dominic Tsui. He keeps telling us to look for that efficiency in water while training at threshold. I swim a few lanes away from the best swimmers in town and I am constantly watching their body position and stroke. I have learnt a lot from them.

Thirdly, but understandably, this won’t resonate with everyone, the sea was a lot expressive this year. It was choppy and rough with big swells and very windy. Last year, it was much calmer. My experience in open water swimming is that I can perform better than average when the sea is rough and full of swells.

Fourthly, I had an amazing crew supporting me. I had a dedicated feeder; Li Ling. Li Ling will also attempt this swim in the end of November this year. She agreed to come aboard as my feeder. I had two of the most daredevil and reliable swimmers as support swimmers. John Pesci and Egon Vavrek. John, Egon and I has just completed 100 km of swimming in 20 days where we swam same open water course every day. We swam through typhoons, storms, and thunder. A swim like this where the elements can challenge you to extreme, you need rock solid swim support. I had that. From the start of the swim, I had a big sense of confidence knowing John, Egon and Li Ling were on the boat supporting me. They would not let me give up.

Finally, I had amazing messages from friends and family sending me messages of support. John Lyons, a good friend and an accomplished open water swimmer from California, had lit a candle before Lemanja (Brazilian Goddess of the Sea) to give me strength in the swim. John once told me that we don’t get stronger in water, but we get efficient. John’s candle and simple messages from my wife, Theresa, like “dig deep”, “all you have to do is keep moving your arms and legs”, “it will hurt but only for 12-15 hours” gave me a lot of company when it was turning nasty. Good friend and triathlete, David Gething said that I was crazy, and he supported me 110%. Alex Fong, who holds the fastest swim time on this course, always shared swimming tips with me on body position, finishing the stroke, high elbow, etc. All these messages were loud in my head. It was all a bit like receiving Qi when I needed it. Then my crew, skipper, Shu, paddlers were all positive and encouraging when I stopped for a feed.

Logistics is a big challenge in this swim. Unlike the English Channel swim or other swims where a swimmer can lose the swim slot due to terrible weather, Shu doesn’t let that happen in HK360. My swim last year was rescheduled thrice due to typhoons. This year as well, it was rescheduled once as two big typhoons came close to Hong Kong on the original swim date, October 13th. Shu then gave me a new date October 27th. But this means big challenges for the organizer and swimmer as everything must be redone including permissions from the Marine Department, as well as securing an escort boat and crew.

I am happy to have swum this course. Having done it twice brings a smile. I am proud of swimming in those tough conditions and succeeding the swim. I am even more proud of my crew for standing by me despite being on the boat which was tossing constantly. I saw the keel of the sailing boat and hull clear the water and in the air a few times from the water and was only thinking about the diehard and dedicated crew on the boat. The experienced skipper did many crazy maneuvers to keep the boat and crew safe. I had to finish the swim for them.

For more information on HK360Swim, email [email protected] and visit www.hk360swim.com or on Facebook and Instagram.

Photo Credit: Maxime Vanhollebeke for HK360Swim

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