Jellyfish, cargo ships, and bone-chilling temperatures await Hong Kong resident Li Ling Yung-Hryniewiecki this summer as she aims to become the first Singaporean woman to swim the 34-kilometer length of the English Channel.
The amateur swimmer will tackle the epic challenge in support of Splash Foundation, setting a fundraising target of S$ 45,000 (approx. US$ 32,000) to aid the charity’s expansion plans.
Splash provides zero-cost learn-to-swim lessons and water safety skills to low-income communities. Its mix of volunteer and professional coaches has taught thousands of migrant domestic workers and underprivileged children the fundamentals of water safety and how to feel comfortable in the water.
A volunteer coach and advocate of the foundation’s “everyone can swim” mantra, Yung-Hryniewiecki’s fundraising goal will support coaching for 100 domestic workers from Singapore’s under-resourced communities as Splash extends its reach outside of Hong Kong:
“Through my involvement with Splash, I’ve seen first-hand the journey from complete beginner to a confident swimmer,” said Yung-Hryniewiecki. “Swimming truly is available to everyone. I hope to show that stepping outside your comfort zone, and even taking part in endurance events, is not reserved for the elite.”
Swimming the Channel, which connects England to France, is demanding and considered the ultimate long-distance challenge. More individuals have climbed Everest than have swum across the Channel. Since the first successful passage in 1875, the average solo crossing time is 13 hours, 33 minutes, and 54 seconds. Yung-Hryniewiecki aims to be Singapore’s first woman to swim across the Channel’s jellyfish-laden landscape.
Taking fluctuating weather conditions into account, registered swimmers are allotted a date window by the Channel Swimming Association (CSA), for which they must be available to start their swim when the weather is deemed suitable. Yung-Hryniewiecki’s window is August 31 to September 9.
She will be closely followed by a CSA-registered pilot and boat, which will provide safety checks, nutrition, and encouragement when needed. However, no physical contact is permitted during the swim. Furthermore, the pilot will help Yung-Hryniewiecki safely navigate one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, with around 600 tankers and 200 ferries passing through daily.
Juggling a full-time job in Hong Kong’s financial sector and a grueling training schedule that totals 45 kilometers per week at its peak, acclimating to cold water swimming has been vital for Yung-Hryniewiecki.
The Channel’s notoriously cold conditions (typically 17 to 18ºC in the summer) push swimmers’ bodies to the limits. For a crossing to be officially recognized by the CSA, athletes are limited to a swimming cap, goggles, a nose clip, earplugs, and a swimsuit.
To prepare, Yung-Hryniewiecki has spent the last few winters training in Hong Kong’s chilly offshore waters while focusing on adding vital body fat necessary for maintaining an optimal core temperature to keep hypothermia at bay.
Splash Co-founder Simon Holliday hailed the impact Yung-Hryniewiecki has made on students to date:
“An estimated 4.4 billion people, mostly women, can’t swim,” said Holliday. “As a long-time Splash volunteer coach, Li Ling has given so much of her time to help others. The funds raised will enable us to provide a vital life skill that can profoundly impact the physical and mental well-being of students in Singapore. All at Splash are incredibly proud of Li Ling and can’t wait to cheer her on!”
Donations can be made at https://go.sparkraise.com/li-