By Peter Gibbs
Brent Foster doesn't much like being called a veteran. The 53-year-old former Commonwealth Games swimmer proved that he doesn't act like a veteran as he led home the field in the inaugural Swim the Bays event, race one of the national Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series, swum over a 3.8km course between Narrow Neck and Takapuna Beach on Saturday.
Medal winners in the inaugural Swim the Shore race, from left, Alex Dunkley, Oxford Bayley, Brent Foster, Abbey Smale and Ella Crowe. Photo: Mark Tantrum
From the start, a couple of lead groups of four or five emerged, with Auckland's Foster in one and 17-year-old Nelson swimmers Oxford Bayley and Abbey Smale in another.
Smale was the overall winner of the series last summer, taking gold in all four races before Covid struck.
Conditions were near perfect as the field of nearly 500 followed a series of ten buoys around the coast, with tide and wind helping, but having a slight tendency to push swimmers out to sea.
As they rounded the final buoy off Takapuna Beach, Foster had a slight lead over Bayley, going on to win by 20 seconds in 47min 34sec.
Auckland swimmer Alex Dunkley took bronze a further 30 seconds back.
Sticking with the leaders paid handsome dividends for Smale, as she repeated her win in last year's King of the Bays race, finishing eighth overall in 49.28, three minutes ahead of Auckland swimmer Teresa Adam.
It was a further 90 seconds back to Ella Crowe of Auckland, who took the women's bronze medal.
The democracy of ocean swimming was obvious as swimmers of all ages came ashore, swimmers of more than 70 mixing it with teenagers.
The oldest swimmer in the race was John Marshall, competing in the M85+ category taking 1hr 42min and Pat Owens taking charge of F80-84, finishing in a touch over two hours.