Words - Peter Gibbs
Photos - Tony Thomas
Nelson swimmers had a final hit out on Sunday as they prepare for the arrival of the Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series in the city next Saturday, March 7.
Luke Kelly produced his trademark sprint up the beach to win the Clements Endurance Series Ironman Challenge.
Sierra Thomas finished in fourth place to win the women's section of the 3.8km swim.
Luke Kelly, last year's Interislander Big Tahuna winner, already has a first and a second in Banana Boat races this season and he showed he's ready to race in his home surf next weekend.
The relentless winds of the past few weeks took a break this weekend, but the conditions in the 3.8km Ironman Challenge were still testing, as swimmers headed north from Tahuna Beach around markers in the harbour basin before tackling shallow waters around the south of Haulashore Island and heading back to the beach
Along with Oxford Bayley and Hayden Squance, Kelly was in a group setting the early pace, with last year's overall Banana Boat Series winner Sierra Thomas tucked behind holding fourth place.
That's the way they finished, with 56-year-old age grouper Hamish Neill next, ahead of other top age group swimmers Matt Hansen, Flossie Van Dyke, Angus Perham, Christina Harris and Ben Van Dyke.
Many of the region's top swimmers were occupied with pool competition, so didn't compete in the 3.8km event.
In last year's Big Tahuna, Kelly, Fergus Drummond, Alec Swan and Bayley took the first four spots, with Squance in seventh, Abbey Smale (the first woman) in eighth and Thomas in ninth. That's seven of the top ten. It doesn't seem likely that Nelson swimmers can better that, although all seven of those swimmers will be there and looking to dominate.
The region's swimmers will be looking for medals in the age groups, Particularly with the like of Terry Bone (M45-49), Hamish Neill (M55-59), Christina Harris (F55-59) and Derek Eaton (M75-79) in dominant form.
The scene is set for some great racing next Saturday as swimmers from around the country try to knock the Nelson swimmers off their perch.