The expected confrontation between the top men didn't eventuate in last night's Port Nelson Sea Swim race over 1200m in the seas between Rocks Rd and Haulashore Island.
Instead, it was the women who provided the fireworks, with Amy Coulton striking back to finish in sixth overall in a time of 15min 16sec, two seconds ahead of Grace Woodall, with Lisa Birkett seven seconds behind in third.
With the tide well out and very little current flowing, swimmers headed first for the navigation "dolphin" midway to Haulashore Island, before cutting back to a buoy near Rocks Rd and a final beat to the north against slightly choppy seas.
Kaiori McGuinniety cruised to his 10th consecutive win, taking 14min 02sec for the course.
Austrian triathlete Martin Demuth has had a hard training week, then was caught up in firefighting traffic coming from Cable Bay so may not have been at his best as he arrived late and trailed in for third in 14min 28sec behind 15-year-old Luke Kelly (14.10), who is shaping up as the next major force to be reckoned with in sea swimming.
Although it seems to be the height of summer, there are only four swims to go before mid-March brings the expected change in the weather that signals the end of the season.
The swim season has been cut to 15 weeks, with the loss of one week to bad weather and another to a sewage spill, so the points table will reflect the best 10 (rather than the planned 12) when the prizes are handed out.
Although it's early days to consider season results, in the men's table, McGuinniety already has 100 points, so is unbeatable. Kelly is on 73 from nine swims, while Simon Kneebone has 69 from 11 swims, so their positions seem to be fixed, provided Kelly can pull out one more good result.
There's far more wriggle room in the women's section, with Coulton on 90, Birkett on 89 and Woodall on 82, but from one less race. No other swimmers are in the frame for overall honours.
Birkett has the most wins, so if she can accumulate some more first and second placings, she'll be in the box seat. However, the two teenagers are relentless and have the ability to shut out the mother of four with top results over the next four weeks.
In some age-group competitions there's still time for changes especially if some of the top competitors can string together enough swims to have points over 10 nights.
Terry Bone has been head and shoulders above the rest in the short swim field all summer. Last night was no exception, as he cruised to a win by 40sec from teenagers Leah Woodford, Brooke Matheson and Gabrielle Hannen, who were separated by four seconds.
Wesley Harris and Julia Garde took the next spots before a timekeeper's nightmare as the next 10 swimmers came in over a 10-second period.
Season points for the short swim series are quite open, as competitors tend to be less regular in their attendance. Harris has built up a solid score by regular appearances, but Jo Rawson, the current leader, could be toppled by five-race winner Garde in the next four weeks.
In the younger age group, Matai McGuinniety has eight-from-eight and seems the likely winner, while Georgie Trengrove has the ability to come from behind and overtake Matheson when the final points are sorted.
Swimming continues at the Nelson Yacht Club next Thursday night. See details and results at nelsonseaswims.co.nz.
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