Perfect conditions for Wellington swim
By Peter Gibbs
More than 500 swimmers raced over 3.3km in the Interislander Swim the Lighthouse race in Wellington on Sunday.
Oxford Bayley and Abbey Smale of Nelson were the top male and female swimmers at Sunday's Interislander Swim the Lighthouse event in Wellington. Photo: Peter Gibbs
Nelson swimmers Oxford Bayley and Abbey Smale topped the podium in the second event of this season's Banana Boat Series, Bayley improving one place from Swim the Shore in December, while Smale continued her unbeaten record in six consecutive races, after winning in Takapuna.
Following a blustery, cold Wellington Saturday, the sun rose in a cloudless sky on race day. Hardly a ripple disturbed the water.
Alex Dunkley of Auckland led the way for the first 1200m from Oriental Bay Beach to the Pt Jerningham Lighthouse, with Bayley and Wellington's Luke Kuggeleijn tucked in behind.
A second group contained Smale, along with Bronson Lloyd and Eligh Ashby of Wellington.
A slight choppiness arose in the approach to the lighthouse, but things smoothed out as the swimmers headed into the 1500m leg back towards downtown Wellington.
Bayley decided it was time to make a move. "I just started to ride the waves and eased past Alex as we headed towards town," he said.
Dunkley didn't allow the leader much leeway, but couldn't bridge that initial break, with Bayley retaining a margin of 20 seconds all the way to the finish.
It was a further 40 seconds back to Kuggeleijn. More than two minutes passed before Lloyd and Smale crossed the finish line.
Alice Adams of Auckland was the second woman to finish, a minute and 20 seconds behind Smale, with Allesandra Unsworth of Wellington, Jodie Lovell of Blenheim and Christina Harris of Nelson in a virtual photo finish for the next placings.
All through the field, some of New Zealand's best swimmers of recent decades dominated their age groups, with 79-year-old Bishop Derek Eaton finishing in 97th place of the 507 to complete the event. Eaton wasn't the oldest in the field, that honour going to Peter Wilkinson of Auckland, who won M80-84, finishing in 297th place in a time of 1hr 3min 2sec
Swimmers also raced over distances of 1000m, 500m, 200m and 100m.
Race three of the Banana Boat Series, the longest of the seven-race series, is the 5km Generation Homes Le Grande Swim in Akaroa on February 20.