Round three of the State New Zealand Ocean Swim Series in Wellington tomorrow is likely to come down to a straight head-to-head for Rotorua swimmer Kane Radford.
Radford and Auckland's Phillip Ryan duelled it out at the New Zealand Open Water Champs, with Radford winning both - but only just. He claimed the 5km race by only two seconds, and the 10km by 3 seconds.
"Both races were a tough battle and he pushed me all the way," Radford said. "It's going to be no different this time."
With none of the overseas contingent entered, including series leader Codie Grimsey and his brother Trent, who was disqualified from the Harbour Crossing, Radford's well aware this weekend is his chance to move up the standings.
"It's time for me and the other New Zealanders to show the overseas contingent that we won't be dominated," he said. "We need to send them a clear message that they are not going to take our series off us." Two other swimmers of interest have also entered the race, Cook Strait record-holder Casey Glover and Ben Campbell MacDonald, who in February last year overcame hypothermia to become the first person to swim the length of Lake Wakatipu.
It took him 18 and a half hours to swim the 81km from Kingston to Glenorchy.
In the women's division, it's all about consolidation for New Zealand No1 Cara Baker. The Gold Coast-based New Zealander heads into the race as the favourite after dominating the New Zealand Open Water Swim Championships on Lake Taupo two weeks ago, winning the 5km and 10km races.
"Those races were all about getting the job done and qualifying for the world championships in Spain later this year," Baker said. "Wellington will be another step towards those championships, it'll be a very good hit-out." Baker's biggest rival for race honours this weekend is series leader Taranaki's Charlotte Webby. At round two, the Harbour Crossing in Auckland, Webby had Baker's measure before she made a crucial navigational error just 200 metres from the finish. Webby missed a buoy and had to go back to round it correctly. This allowed Baker to overtake her and win.
"I expect Charlotte to be firing after what happened in Auckland," she said.
"What happened there will definitely be in the back of my mind."
The Capital Classic is 3.3km from Frank Kitts Lagoon to the Pt Jerningham Lighthouse, before finishing at Freyberg Beach, Oriental Bay.
State New Zealand Ocean Swim Series men's standings (after round 2): Codie Grimsey (Queensland) 197.89, Phillip Ryan (Auckland) 193.26, Trent Grimsey (Queensland) 100.00, Ky Hurst (Queensland) 100.00, Troy Prinsloo (South Africa) 99.50, Kane Radford (Rotorua) 98.28.
State New Zealand Ocean Swim Series women's standings (after round 2): Charlotte Webby (Taranaki) 199.57, Kirsty Wannan (Auckland) 192.74, Natalie Woodgate (Auckland) 183.17, Cara Baker (Auckland) 100.00.