Breca - island-hopping across the Bay of Islands


Coast to Coast hero Sam Clark is among the favourites to take out the inaugural Breca swim-run Bay of Islands on Sunday

He's teamed up with British distance runner and scientist Bonnie van Wilgenburg for the 33km swimrun course.

Sam Clark and Bonnie van Wilgenburg, shown racing together in Wanaka, are among the favourites for Breca Bay of Islands.

The sport of swimrun started in 2002, with teams racing over 75km around the  Stockholm archipelago.

Breca is the British version and race director Ben De Rivaz said New Zealand was a natural fit for the sport, with Breca Wanaka taking place for the second time in March.

The Bay of Islands version has 19 stages, from the run across the Treaty grounds at Waitangi, through short swim and run stages taking in Paihia and Russell. Next is a 3.1km swim to the island of Motuarohia and on via mountain trails, island-hopping to the finish line at the resort of Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island after 24.5km of running and 8.5km of swimming.

There's no support crew on hand - athletes must swim in their shoes and run in their wetsuits, with the option of extras such as pull buoys and paddles to help them in the swim.

Competitors take part in teams of two, with both members completing the full course and staying within 10 metres of each other at all times.

Clark and van Wilgenburg won't have it their own way, with Olympic and Commonwealth Games swimmer Moss Burmester teaming up former elite triathlete Rebecca Clarke.

On the swim sections, Olympic open water swimmer Kane Radford and his brother Reagan will be hard to beat.

Evergreen Ironman hero Scott Molina may be well into his fifties, but with high-ranking long distance triathlete Shannon Proffit he's already shown in the Wanaka events that he'll be close to the lead at the finish.

Scott Molina and Shannon Proffit, shown here racing in Wanaka, will be competing at Breca Bay of Islands.
Photos supplied by Ben De Rivaz

Stephen Farrell is another more mature competitor, racing with leading age group triathlete Katherine Reardon in a team that's strong on experience.

De Rivaz says the bulk of the field is between the ages of 30 and 50, where experienced competitors have the confidence to take on such a gruelling event, but expects younger athletes to be attracted in the future, especially with the alternate shorter course planned for the Bay of Islands next year.
For this year, the age range is from 16 to 69. 

Max Bradbury is the youngest competitor, joining his father Wayde in the Young Dart and Old Fart team.

Since I'm 69, that makes me the oldest, with my team mate Maggy Johnston (63) the oldest woman on the course. Our goal is an honourable finish.

With the volume of sea traffic around the course, De Rivaz says a flotilla of safety craft has been assembled to guide swimmers and to warn other shipping. He says the task of the support boats will be more difficult on the sections between the outer islands, where swimmers may be spread over several sections of the race.

With a water temperature of about 20 degrees and a partly cloudy day predicted, conditions are looking near perfect for Sunday's race.