The city's annual cross-harbour swim is attended by world-class international competitors

A swimmer has died after drowning in Hong Kong’s cross-harbour annual race.

The 46-year-old man was rushed to hospital after being pulled unconscious from the water by a rescue boat. The man was later announced dead

A woman in her 60s was also rescued and is reported to be in intensive care in hospital.

The 1500 metre race had around 3000 participants who swam between two piers on opposite sides of Hong Kong’s famous harbour.

Local media have criticised the organisers for only having 10 extra lifeguards this year even though there were 500 more participants. A one-to-ten lifeguard-to-swimmer ratio is required by international criteria. Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association president Ronnie Wong defended the number of lifeguards, reassuring local media that the assigned number was sufficient.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Wong said, “we are very saddened by the news and will do whatever possible to help his family get through this difficult time.”

The event was divided into two categories – racing and recreational groups. The deceased man and hospitalised woman were competing in the latter, which accommodates slower swimmers.

The annual race held its first race 110 years ago but was cancelled in 1978 due to deteriorated water quality. The event was again revived in 2011 as organisers insisted the water had improved even though some environmental groups warned of high bacterial levels.

Charles Peterson from the USA won the men’s title in just 16 minutes 44 seconds. Rio Olympics 10k open water gold medalist Sharon von Rouwendaal from the Netherlands won the women’s.