Covid surprise in Akaroa Harbour Ocean Swim Series




Words By Peter Gibbs

Race three in the Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series was swum in perfect conditions in Akaroa Harbour on Saturday.

More than 300 competitors lined up in the 5km Generation Homes La Grande swim from Wainui to the village of Akaroa. 

Photos by Mark Tantrum

Alec Swan, left, and Oxford Bayley has a close battle for line honours.

Abbey Smale won her seventh consecutive Ocean Swim race.

It  looked like a whitewash from Nelson swimmers as the leaders ran up the beach.

After being locked together over the entire distance, Oxford Bayley and Alec Swan sprinted for the finish, Bayley crossing first in exactly one hour and two minutes, winning by two seconds.

Abbey Smale had tailed her fellow Nelson swimmers for the first two kilometres before they broke away, but dropped off their feet over the second half of the race. The 17-year-old was the third person to cross the line, leading the women’s field by two minutes from teenagers Ella Crowe and Brooke Bennett.

In a strange Covid-related twist, the final result wasn’t so straight forward.

To observe level two protocols, all the Auckland swimmers started in a separate wave six minutes behind the leaders.

Alex Dunkley was in this group and he had some time to catch up. Threading his way through the field he crossed the line in a time of 1.01.23, winning the event and his age group from Bayley.

All through the field there were top performances in all age groups, with 79-year-old Derek Eaton picking up his 60th medal from 61 races in the Ocean Swim Series after winning the M75-79 section.

There was another thrilling finish in the 2km race, with Ben Isles and Wills Graham crossing the line together, both credited with a time of 22.28.

As if Dunkley hadn’t had enough with his exploits in the 5km race, he was back in the 2km race, where he placed third in 22.35.

Sally McMath and Holly Smith took the first female places in yet another tight finish, two seconds apart, with Chloe Newbigging in third.

Ella Crowe was another who wasn’t content with just a 5km swim, crossing the line first in the 750m event, ahead of Hugo Wrathall.

Including the 100m and 200m events, more than 600 swimmers took part in the day’s racing.