Saturday, May 04, 2019

Labuan Cross Channel Swimming Challenge (5.4 km) on 27 April 2019

Buy Colgate toothpaste
Now the top swim event in Malaysia.
Started in 1997 (23 years ago), the Labuan Channel Swim  has always been a good big budget event. It is always held on the last Saturday of April every year, as part of a larger Labuan water festival (in 2020, it will be held in June because of Raya).

But up to 2017, information on the internet was quite lacking. Then in 2018, Persatuan Akuatik Labuan (PAL) took over the swim organization and started a social media presence.
But for 2019's event, PAL upped the ante and was very active on their Facebook page. Regularly updating swimmers on their preparations, sharing their meetings with uniformed bodies, politicians, staff and promptly replying to ALL queries made by swimmers. All these things gives confidence to swimmers that they will participate in a safe and well organized swim event.

Part of the huge support team
PAL and uniformed bodies smiling. Very reassuring
PAL even announced there was in increase in prize money compared to what was previously announced. For the cheap RM 80 entry fee, participants received a swim safety buoy, T shirt, finisher's medal, cert and the chance to win trophies and the richest prize money for a swim event in South East Asia. 
It's not just swimming
Huge financial backing came from Perbadanan Labuan (Labuan Tourism). Private companies also came forward and the uniformed government bodies gave full support. With PAL organising and in particular well educated Bernice Chin (OC) working tirelessly, it was thus no surprise that the 2019's edition made into the Malaysia Book of Records for the most swimmers (189) ever swimming island to island and for the longest kayak race (51.7 km) in Malaysia.
I noticed that even with 2019's astounding success, PAL have not rested on its laurels. They appreciate constructive criticisms from swimmers and are still updating swimmers on their Facebook page. For example, they will institute electronic timing for 2020.
Watch out folks, once PAL figure out (and they will) how to contact international swimmers directly on social media, the 2020 event (slated to be in June this time) will definitely hit the roof of Open Water Swimming in Malaysia.
Thank you PAL, Bernice (OC), Labuan Tourism, the local government and the numerous agencies and volunteers behind the scenes. THANK YOU.
  • Well organized and safe event.
  • Highest prize money in South East Asia (the Kayak Race pays an even higher RM 3,500 I think).
  • Very responsive organiser.
  • My hotel was just 1 km from the airport and cheap, couldn't believe it. We just love the roof top restaurant.
  • Race location (Labuan International Sea Sports Complex), town all within 5 minutes.
  • Duty free island. Peaceful environment.
  • Cheap car rental at airport (below RM 100 per day).
  • WW II Memorial and "Surrender Point" are worth visiting for me.
  • Proper toilets, restaurants, facilities at race location .
  • Its basically all very convenient.

Swim Categories
  • Kids (below 12 years) start on Papan Island and swim 2.7 km to Labuan Island.
  • Male Seniors (40 years and above, my category).
  • Male Adult (21 - 39 years)
  • Male Teenage (13 - 20 years)
  • Male Junior (7 - 12 years)
Prize money went ten deep for all categories (I didn't win any).
A reunion
Races are when we meet our long lost friends. We all love this reunion of friends.

Rupert and Jose
From Brunei, Hj Abu Bakar whom I last met in 2002 and Ahmad Fathi Junaidi whom I first met at IMWA in 2008

Yoong Lee Sang, we always finish close together

Yang from Korea

Estino Bin  Taniyu (Royal Malaysian Navy) swam the English Channel solo in 2012 (13+ hours)

Ahmadu Tahir from Sabah my Triathlon buddy from 1992 to 2015

The actual swim
  • Kids (below 12 years) start on Papan Island and swim 2.7 km to Labuan Island.
  • All adults start in one wave and  swim from the beach in front of the Labuan Marine Museum to a small boat at the Jetty on Papan Island, get a wrist band, drink some water and swim back.
  • Conditions were slightly windy and sunny, no jelly fish. A beautiful day for swimming actually.

My personal swim
I missed the race briefing the day before and another one on race morning. Totally my fault.
Some buoys seemed out of place so I sighted for the island. One large boat seemed to be moving about blocking the view of the jetty. There was a race banner (for the kids race) on the beach, so I thought we were supposed to swim for the beach like previous years. But I was mistaken, the turnaround was the jetty.
So the first half was not the best for me.
Coming back was super easy. We could easily sight the Sea Sports Complex and two minarets just behind it. Swimming back was a breeze.

For the swim back, just head for the twin minarets, super easy
I finished twelfth in my category (40+) in 1:53 which was also the strongest category in terms of depth.

Overall Results
For full results, please go to Persatuan Akuatik Labuan's  Facebook page.

Overall Male:
  1. Ngu Jiung Wei (Sarawak)          1:14:05
  2. Rupert Tan       (KL)                  1:14:21
  3. Gasten Gan      (Sabah)              1:15:32
Overall Female
  1. Lai Qian Ying  (Sabah)              1:25:27
  2. Siti Izzah          (Sabah)              1:25:41
  3. Yong Zi Yi       (Sabah)             1:26:28
    Not sure if I will ever join them hee hee
For improvement
This event is going places. There are even rumours that Labuan will host the Asian Open Water Swimming Championships, and why not. They will definitely improve because of the government's support, PAL and Bernice as the Organising Chairperson..
  • Electronic timing.
  • Have many practice races to increase race sharpness of all staff involved. For example, feeding for swimmers has to be very fast.
  • Kayakers should be trained to guide swimmers correctly. For example, shout "head for jetty" or "head for mosque tower". Don't say "go straight" which is meaningless for swimmers.
  • Minimise boat movement.
  • Anchor marker buoys.
  • Remove the banner from Papan Island beach as it confuses adult swimmers.
  • Contact international swimming groups on social media. For example "Singapore All Stars", "Swimsmooth Singapore", "Swimsmooth Malaysia", "Penang Open Water Swimmers", "Swimon (Malaysia)", "Yang" from Korea, Thailand swim groups, Hong Kong, Australia etc. Surf Facebook, you will find them. 
Thank you. 2019 was a great success.
Well done

4 May 2019

No comments: