Swimmers get ready for the start of the first race of the Port Nelson Sea Swim series that began at the Nelson Yacht Club last Thursday. Photo: Simon Bloomberg.

Nelson’s sea swim series open for another year

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The Port Nelson Summer Sea Swim series continues to ride a wave of popularity with a record 174 swimmers taking the plunge on the opening night of the series last Thursday.
That’s a big increase on the handful of swimmers that lined up in the series when it started 25 years ago and one of the organisers Dick Bennison says he’s not surprised at the growth. Sea swimming is becoming increasingly popular all around the country and Dick says the Port Nelson series is no exception.
“It started as a small group of triathletes getting together for a swim and when I joined up 15 years ago we only had about 30 swimmers. It’s been growing steadily over the last three or four years and now we are up to 170 and we’re still getting registrations coming in.”
Dick says there are a number of reasons for the popularity of sea swimming nationally including the fact that it is gaining a higher profile in the media and is the perfect low-impact sport for ageing athletes.
The Port Nelson series has also benefited from the decisions to aim the series at swimmers of all abilities with a long and short course option and make it more user friendly by starting the swimmers in three waves to minimise the washing machine effect.
“A lot of people were telling us that they found the starts intimidating and so we decided to start the races in three waves to make it a friendlier environment. Now people see it as a very achievable event.”
Dick says the Nelson Triathlon and Multisport Club which runs the series is also fortunate to have a good sponsor in Port Nelson and a harbour with benign sea conditions. The harbour is also highly visible to the public which helps raise the profile of the series and attract new swimmers.
However, the growth has presented the organisers with a number of challenges including getting enough safety boats to keep an eye on swimmers and volunteers to manage the registration and timing. Dick says the Nelson Surf Life Saving Club and Nelson Kayak Club have been doing a fantastic job of providing safety craft while a team of volunteers ensure starts and timing goes smoothly.

“The safety plan is crucial to the swims and we take it very seriously.  We have the Nelson Surf Life Saving Club’s inflatable rescue boat manned by three crew and six kayakers from the kayak club as well as a trained on-shore resuscitator.”

For the record, Fraser Neill was the fastest male over the long course completing the 650 metres in 7 minutes 38 seconds with Amy Coulton the fastest female in 8min 28 sec. Although the teenagers set the pace last Thursday there is still a big contingent of super-fast masters with Kerry Mathison (9min 30sec) and Simon Kneebone (8min 18sec) the quickest of the 40-something swimmers.

Ireland Steenbergen was the fastest swimmer over the short course finishing in 4min 46sec. Mandy Medcalf-Stephens was second in 4min 49sec.

The series is held at the Nelson Yacht Club every Thursday at 6.15pm over the summer. There will also be the four-race Clements Endurance a long distance series starting on December 1.

The Nelson Senior Open was played in Richmond over the weekend and the local players winning a fair share of the silverware.

Nelson men’s pair of Andre Van Rooyen and David Averill beat two Canterbury players to win the doubles title. In the men’s singles final top Nelson player Kenta Naka fell to Jamie Poole but Melle Van Duijn won the men’s singles plate convincingly 6-0, 6-1 over Oscar Symonds.

In the women’s draw, the singles final was won by Leanne Greep of the Tasman Tennis Club, beating Jacinta Morgan from Christchurch, 6-1.62.

The men’s singles quarter finals produced a couple of exciting matches; Andre Van Rooyen ( Nelson Lawns coach and number 4 seed) beat Hamish Low, local boy now Dunedin  Uni student,  3/6, 6/3, 6/2.  Also playing the  1/4’s was local number 2 seed David Averill (Nelson Lawns Club) against Ben Clark, number 4 seed from Edgeware Club in Christchurch.  Great play from Ben Clark who eventually succumbed to David Averill 7/6, 1/6, 6/4.  The Ladies singles final was dominated by Leanne Greep (Tasman Tennis Club), beating Jacinta Morgan (Edgeware Tennis Club) 6/1, 6/2.

Spectators were treated to equally exciting matches in the semi-finals of the mens doubles.  Kenta Naka & Brendon Spence played an extremely tight and even game against Edgeware pair Jamie Poole & Ben Clark loosing 4/6, 6/4, 10/7.  Teenagers Jackson Barber and Matthew Parkinson put on a fantastic show of tennis against Kelvin Williams and Kenji Yamamoto, eventually loosing 6/4, 6/2.

In day two (Sunday) the final of the men’s doubles was fiercely and evenly contested, going to a super tie break in the third set where local pair David Averill and Andre Van Rooyen edged the Canterbury doubles paring of Ben Clark and Jamie Poole out of the game winning 6-1, 4-6, 10-8.

Top Nelson player Kenta Naka met Jamie Poole in the finals of the men’s singles.  Jamie took the first set 6-3, Kenta made a comeback in the second set only to have play interrupted by rain causing time off court and finally losing in two sets 6-3, 7-5.  Melle Van Duijn won the men’s singles plate convincingly 6-0, 6-1 against Oscar Symonds.