First Open Water Swim was a Blast

Nina entered a competition for a free entry into the State Harbour Crossing, a 2.9km swim from Devonport to Aucklands Viaduct Harbour, and won. She kindly donated the entry to me which a gladly accepted….. until I saw the conditions on arrival to race start.

Add to this the facts that I decided to make this my first open water swim of the season and also deciding on non-wetsuit option, I had really taken the trifecta today. After a bit of a wonder through the crowd, hearing advice passed out from seasoned pros “just get round the corner and aim for the Sky Tower.”  I started to get ready for one hell of a swim.

We were asked to take a seat while the briefing took place “There have been reports of 18-30knot winds in the Harbour this morning” and another “If you don’t feel absolutely confident of finishing please withdraw now and there will be a free ferry to take you back to Auckland.”  (I later found out there were actually 30knot winds out in the Harbour.)  “the wind will affect your swim and its blowing from the bridge out, so if you aim for the Sky Tower you will find yourself in Mission Bay.” came over the speaker. 

It was here that a young lady tapped me on the shoulder (as I was hugging my knees to keep warm in the wind) and told me how brave I am to do this with no wetsuit.  Little did she know there was a girl a third of my age right behind her doing the same thing.  She looked hard as…

Briefing done and it was time to enter the water.  Being in the first wave meant we had to get to the start line and wait until most of the other competitors had entered behind us.   After what seemed like an age there were a couple of short toots on the starter horn and the elites were off.  It was a full minute until we were off but this minute went much quicker than expected. 

The start was furious, with arms flying everywhere, much the same as the video below.

I was lucky enough not to get tangled up too much but did have to swim over a silly person who was swimming in the wrong direction as I was jammed in the middle of two others. 

As I reached the 900m marker I did start to feel, as was suggested in the briefing, the full affects of what it was like in the middle of the harbour but this was turning out to be fun.  My aim before the swim was to jump on someones hips or feet and draft (energy saving technique) for some of the swim but it proved quite difficult to sit on someones feet as the waves were so high.  Sometimes I would look to my right and see this 2metre wall of water approach then next time I took a breath the upper half of my body was out of the water.  This was REALLY beginning to be fun.

There were also moments in the middle of the harbour where I felt like I was the only one swimming, which is a bit strange considering there were another 1500 people out there with me.  As I started to enter the viaduct the other 1500 people became more noticeable.  “Stay left of the buoys as you enter the viaduct, head under the drawbridge then turn to your right”  went through my head from the briefing as I am sure it did with the competitors around me. 


After 56 minutes and 44 seconds of swimming my State NZ Auckland Harbour Crossing was done and below you can see the swim.

It doesn’t look too bad in the view above, in fact, according to this I followed the buoys exactly as they were set out (to combat the wind conditions) but if you zoom in you can see that I didn’t swim straight at all.  I actually swam an extra 400m than needed which equates to approximately 6 minutes of swim time.

At that rate I may have just beaten another Three Coaching athlete Aimee Hutchinson.

Then I remember, she had to deal with the same conditions so I probably wouldn’t have.  I did however win my age group in the non-wetsuit division and am stoked with that result.

So, not bad for my first open water swim of the season and a few lessons learned.

  1. Sighting is really important and when you sight the buoy, pick a big landmark behind the buoy that is easier to aim for.
  2. Get a wetsuit for ironman swim, much quicker.
  3. More training because you have to beat the little whipper-snappers in the squad!!

There are a couple of thanks for the day too.

  • Nina for the entry and a lift to start line after a big night beforehand
  • Ben of Three Coaching for the coaching, advice, support and the lift home.
  • Ben’s partner for putting up with my babbling on the way home.
  • Jeff and the team at AvantiPlus Waitakere for allowing me to take the morning off for the swim and supporting me through all my events.


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