A navigational error 200 metres from the finish cost Charlotte Webby the women's title in the Auckland Harbour open water swim on Sunday.
Instead of heading to the right of a marker buoy, the New Plymouth swimmer went to the left and with it her hopes of beating arch rival Cara Baker disappeared.
"Gutted," said Webby yesterday when asked about the 2.9 kilometre race from Bayswater to Viaduct Harbour, which was held in testing, choppy conditions.
"Approaching the final three buoys, I had a lead of between 45 seconds to a minute. I saw the buoys and thought I should go to the right, but went left. I was about 40 metres past the first buoy when a kayaker told me I had to go back and go around the buoy," she said.
"It's gutting. I'd had an awesome swim. A perfect race gone wrong. It was just stupid, I can't explain it. I was really angry when I got out. It's no-one's fault. I know the rules. You live and learn."
The back-tracking cost Webby time and she was overtaken by Baker, who won by 15 seconds. Baker's winning time was 39 minutes 56 seconds.
"I really wanted to beat Cara. I've only beaten her once before, but never at this distance. She's an awesome swimmer," Webby said.
"At least I know my training is working."
Webby will compete in the Wellington open water Ocean Series race on Sunday, January 27.
But her immediate focus is on the New Zealand 10km open water trials in Taupo on Saturday, January 12.
"That's the big one for me."
The men's race was won by Australian Trent Grimsey in 35min 9sec. Second was another Australian, double Olympian Ky Hurst.
Is Ma'a Nonu returning to the Hurricanes ...Related story: Ma'a Nonu's return to Hurricanes confirmed