The winners were the same as last year and the conditions very similar at the Sand to Surf swim at Mount Maunganui on Saturday.
Tauranga's Nathan Capp repeated his win of 12 months ago, just heading off Phillip Ryan (Auckland) with Australian Michael Shiel in third. In the elite women's race, Charlotte Webby (New Plymouth) repeated her win of 2015 and in doing so gained revenge on Steffani Gillespie, who had raise eyebrows to pip Webby at the previous swim in the series, the Legend of the Lake race on Rotorua's Blue Lake. Penny Hayes was third.
Capp got home just 6sec in front of Ryan in a super-fast time of 27m 56sec minutes, with Webby winning in 30min 23sec.
"I got a good start and managed to hold him back," said Capp, who also won the Auckland Harbour Crossing round in December, and was last year's series winner.
As happened last year, conditions were near to perfect for the swim around Rabbit Island to the Mount Main Beach.
"The conditions weren't that bad - there was a little bit of a swell at the back of Rabbit Island, that's all," said Capp, who returned to his home city to take part in the swim.
Event director Scott Rice said there were lots of nerves among the swimmers at the start: "But there were some happy campers with the weather - it was calm with very little wind."
The final round of the series takes place on April 2 at the King of the Bay Swim in Auckland, but Capp's attention now turns to qualifying for the Rio Olympics at the New Zealand open swimming titles in April. The ocean swim isn't part of his preparation, but he said it was special to win again in front of a home crowd. "Last year I took it really seriously, because I was up with the points leaders, but before [when he finished third] it wasn't so serious."
Capp holds three long course national records in the 800m and 1500m freestyle, and 400m individual medley. "[Open water swimming] is just racing really. It's what I did last year and it worked for me - it certainly doesn't hinder [pool swimming]."
Other distances at the event included the 300m Give it A Go distance, the 1km Step It Up distance, and the 200m OceanKids event for those under age 14.
The event also marked the announcement of the six newest members in the Jetstar Super Swim Squad. This special squad is made up of the talented youngsters (aged 7 to 13) who win their age group in the OceanKids 200m events during the series and involves attendance at an end-of-season training camp in Auckland with top New Zealand swimmers and coaches.
New squad members include Tyler Tapper (Matamata), Sophie Spencer (Auckland), Michael Lansdown (Hastings), Janaye Burns (Auckland), Henry Scholes (Tauranga) and Renee Carey (Tauranga).