On Saturday 22 Feb the 4th round of the State NZ Ocean Swim Series was held in the historic French and British settlement of Akaroa. Nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano the village is only 75km from the city of Christchurch but with is quaint sleepy galleries, craft stores and cafes set on the harbour front you feel miles from anywhere and instantly chilled and relaxed. The date of the 22 Feb was also significant in that it was the 3rd anniversary of the Christchurch earthquakes that claimed 182 lives. A minute of silence was held in remembrance.
The day started extremely promising with blue skies and the sunshine peaking over the crater rim. Race start was 0900 to coincide with 60 minutes prior to high tide. After registration in the town domain swimmers then walk 500m down to the central village beach for the start. With just over 900 competitors the beach is busy but with a friendly and excited atmosphere. The path above is packed with friends and family members and sightseers alike. Akaroa also acts as hosts for visiting cruise ships and a few passengers take up the last minute opportunity to participate in the 2.8km ocean swim.
Race director Scott Rice gives one of the most professional race briefings you are likely to hear. Then the race starts in seeded waves with the elites and faster swimmers starting first in red caps, followed by successive waves in different coloured caps starting 60 seconds apart. The course is a simple triangle 1.4 km out and 1.4km back finishing with a run up the beach and across the finish line in the local domain.
Blue skies and sunshine remained for the swim start however a reasonable Nor’west breeze meant that swimmers were swimming directly into a moderate wind-blown chop for the first 1.4km. For the novices this perhaps was a challenge for the more experienced it provided some variety that makes open water swimming exciting. Rounding the top mark all swimmers were blinded by a blazing sunshine and had to use all navigational opportunities to try and swim down the buoy line to the finish line. This meant sighting off the volcano rim, using features left and right and at times dog legging back to the buoy that you were just about to miss – this occurred for many from the elites, amateurs and yours truly.
There was a swim into the beach and the very short run up the beach to a large and supportive crowd meant everyone felt an additional spurt of energy. It was hard not to run up the finish chute with a smile on ones face. The prize giving is held in the finish area at the local community park/domain which gave the event a real family orientated feel. The sun continued to shine all day which makes the difference for any open water event. Many finished up with a well-deserved ice cream on the water front. The perfect conclusion.
This article was first published by the worlds leading open water swim magazine
Find out more about the State Ocean Swim Series http://www.oceanswim.co.nz/