Neill wins tight three-way battle to take out latest leg of Nelson sea swim series
After a neck and neck three-way battle, Fraser Neill focused at the end to win the 12th race of the Port Nelson Swim Series from the Nelson Yacht Club on Thursday night.
A sharp drop in temperature combined with rain all day made swimming an unattractive proposition and as a result only 106 swimmers arrived for the weekly event - the lowest turnout for several years.
Ironically, despite the light rain that continued to fall, those that did swim were treated to the best conditions of the summer - flat calm seas and a minimal current from the outgoing tide.
It was an ideal opportunity for a longer swim of about 1500m from the yacht club ramp out to the 'dolphin' navigation marker, down to the Richardson St steps and then a return leg of 600m to the start point.
Neill, Luke Kelly and Harrison Dean swam nearly stroke for stroke over the entire distance with Neill and Dean having a slight edge as the trio approached the final buoy about 40m offshore. Unfortunately, Dean hadn't counted on the final buoy, allowing Neill to break clear and Kelly to slip through while Dean made a quick correction to his course.
At the line it was Neill in 17 minutes 25 seconds from Kelly (17.32) and Dean (17.46).
Next to finish were Matai McGuinniety ((18.27), Josh Sheridan (18.38) and Matthew Hansen (18.46) ahead of Neill's father Hamish (18.55), the leading M50-59 swimmer.
Teenager Ben Ryan (19.04) finished eighth, ahead of top M40-49 swimmer Simon Kneebone (19.07) and leading M60-69 competitor Ben Van Dyke (19.23).
Piper Riley (19.24) was the top woman swimmer for the second time this summer, lifting her to fifth in the overall female standings, while Kerry Mathieson (19.35), Jude Vincent (19.55) and Christina Harris (20.00) finished in their normal order of the past few weeks.
In another family tie-up, Chris Vincent (19.56) finished one second behind his wife.
One of the best finishes of the night was from 75-year-old Derek Eaton (22.36), who made a killer sprint over the last 40m to edge out 68-year-old Stuart Hebberd (22.37) and 63-year-old Dick Bennison (22.38).
However the closest finish was between Ruth Thomas and Barry Thomas, who recorded identical times of 22min 4sec.
Now that 12 swims have been completed, the season standings have started to firm up, with placings decided on each swimmer's best 12 results, meaning that over the next five weeks inferior performances can be replaced by better finishes while those who have missed swims can bring up the required number.
Only Kerry Mathieson is in an unbeatable position with the maximum 120 points from 12 swims. Jude Vincent has 116 compared to Christina Harris's 112 in F50-59, so in theory this competition could go either way.
Ruth Thomas is well ahead in F30-39 with 115, while Simon Kneebone (101) and Terry Bone (100) are battling it out in M40-49, although Bone has completed one race fewer so is in the best position.
Ralph Hetzel leads M70-79 with 110 points after 12 swims, but Derek Eaton has the maximum possible 90 after nine swims and could ease ahead if he completes the required number of outings.
In the short race over 400m, Nicholas Paulin took advantage of the calm seas to ease away from Robert Sheridan at the end to win by five seconds in 6min 59sec.
Sisters Gemma Langley (7.21) and Mia Langley (7.36) were next, ahead of Emma Lynch (7.38), Lauren Penney (8.25), Bruce Thomas (8.40), Leila Challenger (8.45), Emma Jonas (8.47), Karla Thurlow (8.48), Katie Jonas (9.04) and Nicole Thurlow (9.07).
Swimming continues in the Port Nelson series next Thursday.
Results, information at nelsonseaswims.co.nz.