Swimmers dived into the harbor at Lei Yu Mun's Sam Ka Tsuen pier and raced 1.89 kilometers to Quarry Bay Park pier.
Ling Tin-Yu -- a member of the Hong Kong swim team -- won the race, crossing Victoria Harbour in 20 minutes, 34 seconds.
Now branded the New World Harbour Race 2011, the event began more than 100 years ago, but has not been held since 1978 due to polluted waters and busy harbor traffic.
Last week, data from Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department (EPD) revealed E. coli levels in the harbor were twice the maximum acceptable level at Hong Kong bathing beaches.
The Green Harbour Actions environmental concern group warned that swimmers partaking in the swim risked becoming ill.
However, the EPD announced water quality in the harbor, particularly in the eastern section where the race took place, has "shown significant improvement" and E. coli levels have decreased by 95 percent since a new sewage treatment scheme began in 2001.
Organizers said E. coli levels since October 15, a day before the race, were at acceptable levels and no swimmer has reported becoming ill so far.
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