Port Nelson Sea Swim Series
By Peter Gibbs
Hayden Squance was at his consistent best and Isabella Thurlow demonstrated that she's up there with the top swimmers in the region as the pair won their respective male and female sections in Thursday's Port Nelson Sea Swim Series.
A field of 150 took on triangular courses of 1km or 500m. With calm seas, clear skies and very little current, conditions were perfect as the longer race headed off from the Nelson Yacht Club ramp towards the 'dolphin' navigation marker, out in the harbour 400m away.
Hayden and last season's series winner Luke Kelly led the way, closely followed by Terry Bone and Isabella.
As they rounded the mark, heading for a yacht close to Rocks Rd, Hayden broke clear, holding the lead on the third leg back to the ramp to win from Luke by about 30 seconds, ahead of Terry and Isabella.
Flossie Van Dyke was the second woman to finish, a fraction of a second ahead of Lucy Barron.
Nelson has been blessed in recent years by some of the top open water swimmers in the country, thanks in part to an intensive pool programme for the teenagers at Richmond's Aquatic Centre. The best of the group this summer has been Alec Swan, Oxford Bayley, Nic Hall and Abbey Smale. All four were away at a national long-distance taking camp this week, but that in no way diminished the strength of the top swimmers in Thursday's swim.
Hayden is a national triathlon champion. Luke has been a regular winner of national ocean swims, placing second in the Banana Boat Series last season, although he's scaled back his training recently and this was his first race of the summer.
Abbey has dominated the national series recently, but Isabella has never been far from her heels and has the potential to spring surprises, as she did when the Big Tahuna came to Nelson last summer.
The Banana Boat Series winner in 2018-2019, Sierra Thomas, has had a break so far this summer, but has been spotted taking a casual training swim and can't be discounted should she rekindle her sea swim career.
The talent is not limited to young swimmers.
Thursday's third-placegetter Terry Bone is 48. In fifth place was 57-year-old Hamish Neill, followed by 35-year-old Ben Marshall. All three are in the top echelon of age group swimmers nationally.
The same applies Ben Van Dyke, 70, who finished this week's race hard on the heels of his daughter Flossie and just ahead of Christina Harris, 57.
In the short race, Noah Brehaut, 12, celebrated his fourth consecutive win in the male section, finishing narrowly ahead of Marcell Kepess, 11.
Lilly Claridge, 13, had her first win in the series, following a third, then a second place in earlier swims, taking her to the top of the table.
Taking her first dip this summer, Jess Fulford, 36, took second place.
Swimming continues in the Port Nelson series on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, with the annual Eyebright Mile between the yacht club and Tahunanui Beach coming up on Sunday January 10.
Full details and results, nelsonseaswims.co.nz.