Clements Endurance Swim Series - Tahuna Beach
By Peter Gibbs
The record book was rewritten in race four of the Clements Endurance Swim Series - the 3.8km Ironman Challenge off Tahuna Beach on Sunday.
In tight finishes in the 3.8km swim on Sunday, Alec Swan, left, came in first, a second ahead of Fergus Drummond, with Sierra Thomas the first woman to finish, a second ahead of Abbey Smale, right. Photo Peter Gibbs
The early morning high tide helped, with a fine, calm day for the duration of the race.
Three swimmers stood up together in the shallows and it was only the final sprint to the beach that separated them, Alec Swan crossing the line in 42 minutes 6 seconds, ahead of Fergus Drummond (42.07) and Bendi Kepess (42.08), who agonisingly had the victory in his sights before he tripped in the shallow water.
Luke Kelly strolled ashore in 42min 14sec, not knowing that his 2014 record of 45min 23sec had been shattered - eventually by seven men.
Close behind was national secondary schools open water champion Sierra Thomas, who took the women's title in 42min 43sec from Abbey Smale (42.54), both destroying Lisa Birkett's 2013 record of 47min 21sec by nearly five minutes.
Between the two women, Oxford Bayley (42.44) also broke Kelly's record, as did Ben Marshall (43.48) and Terry Bone (44.15).
Both Kelly and Thomas have won national events in the Banana Boat series this season, with Thomas leading the women's points table.
The question now, is how dominant can the Nelson swimmers be in race five of the national series - The Interislander Big Tahuna on Saturday March 2.
With Sunday's top four, and the addition of triathlete Hayden Squance, there's a chance of a clean sweep of the top five men's places.
Thomas has been regal in the national series, both for open women and in the national schools competition, but Smale leads her in the shorter Port Nelson series. Can the pair take out the first two places in the Big Tahuna?
Added to that, there's a slew of Nelson swimmers capable of winning age group titles at the Big Tahuna. In addition to the overall Nelson favourites, who will dominate their younger age groups, older swimmers also have good chances for gold.
These include Derek Eaton (M75-79), Stuart Hebberd (M70-74), Ben Van Dyke (M65-69), Steve Clements (M60-64), Janis Crampton (F60-64), Hamish Neill (M55-59), Andrew Martin (M55-59), Christina Harris (F55-59), Terry Bone (M45-49) and Ben Marshall (M30-34).
In Sunday's short race, the 1300m swim from the Richardson St Steps to the beach, Wayne Leighton came in first in 23min 20sec, ahead of Eileen Searle (25.09).