Ocean Swim - Mt Maunganui

By Peter Gibbs
Auckland 15-year-old Alex Dunkley inched closer to a series victory in the national Banana Boat Ocean swim series with a win in race six - the Generation Homes The Mount Swim in Mt Maunganui on Saturday.
Start of the 2.8km race
Photos by Mark Tantrum
The first woman home was Talitha McEwan
Swim the Mount winner Alex Dunkley
Talitha McEwan improved one place on her Blue Lakes result a fortnight earlier to take the overall women's gold medal.
The 2.8km swim took in a moderate surf at the start and rounded Rabbit Island and the Leisure Island peninsula before ending on the main beach at the Mount.
Swimmers faced a long journey into the morning sun to round the first buoy, with conditions growing rougher the further they went from shore.
Dunkley and Larn Hamblyn-Ough (Auckland) led a large chasing group as they ticked off the second and third buoys. 
Even though the intermediate markers were closer together, many swimmers further back in the field of nearly 500 went wide at this point as the course changed direction and the buoys became difficult to sight in the rough seas.
Dunkley had no such trouble, taking advantage of the change of direction to break away on his own.
From there on, the young Aucklander put his head down, ticking off the buoys and increasing his lead to over 100m by the finish, crossing the line with a gap of more than a minute back to Hamblyn-Ough.
There was a further gap of about 50m to third place, with veteran swimmer Brent Foster taking third place in 36min 28sec ahead of Kalani Bruce (36.29), Daniel Shanahan (36.39) and Joshua Agnew (36.42).
First placed woman Talitha Mcewan was part of this group, the Papamoa swimmer crossing the line in seventh overall in a time of 36min 46sec.
Lena Hamblyn-Ough (37.06) was next to finish, with Ella Crowe finishing 14th overall in a time of 38min 17sec to place third in the women's field.
In mathematical terms, the full results form a large set, with various subsets being extracted for age group and other special categories, like non-wetsuit swimmers, Aquaknights school competition and the special subset in this event of the Global Swim Series.
With swimmers vying for medals in all these categories, the prizegiving  was a series of celebrations, as rivalries throughout the field were kindled and laid to rest.
Global Swim recognition was given to Dunkley and Mcewan as well as non-wetsuit swimmers Simon Millar and Lauren Mills. 
Swimmers also competed over distances of 1250m and 500m, with younger athletes taking on 100m and 200m events.
The more ambitious athletes took on the Amphibian event, with triathlete Clark Ellice winning the combined 750m swim followed by a 4.5km run around the Mount. School student Eryn Westlake was the first female finisher.
With the series moving back to Auckland for Harcourts Cooper and Co Swim the Bridge in two weeks, the lead male position is wide open. After seven events, only the best three results are taken to decide the overall championship.
Dunkley has two wins and a second, while Foster has two wins and a third. If either of them win Auckland they will take the championship.
However, Nelson's Oxford Bayley shouldn't be discounted. With a win and two second placings so far, a victory in Auckland would put three swimmers in contention - all with two wins. Furthermore, if Foster was to place second in Auckland, all three would have the same statistics. In that case, the race margins between each of them would be analysed, making for an intriguing matchup under the harbour bridge.
Abbey Smale faces no such pressure. With pool obligations last weekend, the young swimmer from Richmond skipped the Mount swim, but she has five wins under her belt and will win the women's series no matter what happens in a fortnight.