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Relay swimmers conquer the treacherous Taiwan Straits
Updated: 2014-08-23

Relay swimmers conquer the treacherous Taiwan Straits

Swimmers arrive in Pingtan, Fujian province, on Friday after a five-day relay across the Taiwan Straits. Bao Hua / for China Daily

Fourteen swimmers from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan braved strong winds and waves to complete a five-day relay across the Taiwan Straits on Friday.

The relay, the first across the Straits, was organized by the Chinese Swimming Association and the Master Swimming Taiwan club in Taipei.

"Strong currents in the Taiwan Straits are notorious and pose a great physical challenge to swimmers," said the club's head, Lin Tien-chin.

He said the relay route of about 130 km from Hsinchu in northern Taiwan to Pingtan in Fujian province was the shortest across the waterway, but the swimmers would have covered about 250 km due to currents and tides.

Lin said the event would help to boost exchanges between the mainland and Taiwan.

The 14 swimmers - seven from the mainland and seven from Taiwan - stepped ashore at Longfengtou beach in Pingtan county, Fujian, at about 3 pm on Friday after a tough challenge.

They took to the water at 12:40 pm on Monday at a fishing port in Hsinchu, with Taiwan resident Su Zi-jie as the lead-off swimmer.

Su swam about 12 km in three hours, setting a good pace for the next swimmer, Zhen Kexin from the mainland.

"I stopped only three times, because I wanted to go faster so that my colleagues could take fewer turns," Su said, adding that he ate 40 dumplings after his swim.

The 14 participants swam in 3-hour shifts without any breaks. Each was equipped with shark repellent and a wetsuit to protect against jellyfish stings. A pilot boat was also on hand to help the swimmers navigate the currents and shipping lanes.

Lin Join-Sane, chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation in Taiwan, said the relay attracted widespread attention not only because it attempted to conquer the Straits in an unprecedented way, but also for breaking new ground in cross-Straits communications.

Lu Ting and Ma Lie contributed to this story.