Race four of the Ocean Swim Series - great day for local Nelson swimmers


By Peter Gibbs
Photos by Mark Tantrum
Luke Kelly and Abbey Smale, male and female winners of the 3km Interislander Big Tahuna in Nelson.
Swimmers Luke Kelly and Abbey Smale took full advantage of local knowledge, taking out the top male and female spots in race four of the national Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series, The Interislander Big Tahuna, held in Nelson on Saturday.
It wasn't a flash in the pan for either, with Kelly defending his title from last year and Smale dominating this year's series, having won all three of the previous races in Takapuna, Wellington and Akaroa.
Kelly was the winner in Wellington in January, but has yet to upset Auckland's Sebastian Priscott, who won race one in Takapuna in December and defeated Kelly in race three in Akaroa two weeks ago.
After a torrid 5km swim in Akaroa, Nelson produced glassy seas and a fine day for the main event - a 3km swim from Tahunanui Beach around Fifeshire Rock.
A Nelson quintet of Kelly, Smale, national triathlon champion Hayden Squance, Fergus Drummond and Oxford Bayley formed a tight group leading the field around the triangular course.
A feature of the event is a large four-lane water slide just off the beach, with swimmers being encouraged to climb on to it, run along one of four runways and slide back into the water. None of the serious swimmers seemed inclined to use this option, which seemed certain to take longer than swimming around it.
As the lead group rounded the obstacle, Squance went left, the others took a course to the right. When they stood up in shallow water, Kelly had a slight edge, with only seconds separating him from Squance, Drummond, Bayley and Smale, who took out the women's title, cementing her series victory with three races still to go.
Alex Dunkley from Auckland was a minute back, followed by Nelson's Terry Bone, winner of the M45-49 age group.
In an interesting development, Nelson teenager Isabella Thurlow looked to have second place in her grasp, but decided to take on the slide, allowing Sammi Harnett of Christchurch to take the women's silver medal with Thurlow the bronze.
With 1km and 500m events, as well as three shorter races for young swimmers, nearly 500 took part in the day's swimming.
Race five in the series is the 3.5km Generation Homes Legend of the Lake, in Rotorua's Blue Lake on March 21, with various other distances available. The series then goes on to Mt Maunganui, with the final event the Harcourts Cooper and Co Swim the Bridge in April.
Details and full results at oceanswim.co.nz.