This weekend's State Bay of Islands Classic in Paihia seems to be getting more and more popular as the event has increased by 16 per cent on last year's numbers.

In all, 930 swimmers will compete in this weekend's races, which doubles as the second in a six-race series around the country this summer.

The final four rounds will be held in the New Year in Wellington, Akaroa, Mount Maunganui and on Auckland's North Shore.

This weekend's race is a 3.3km swim from Russell to Paihia, with Aucklander Phillip Ryan being one of the favourites.


"I love swimming the Bay of Islands race. It's exhilarating swimming across the bay and I'm really looking forward to it," he said.

The elite women's race looks set to be a shootout between highly promising Auckland teenagers 16-year-old Liana Smith and 15-year-old Paige Schendelaar-Kemp (pictured).

New Zealand's best open water swimmers are going to have their hands full with top Australian, Jarrod Poort, 19, heading into this round of the State New Zealand Ocean Swim Series.

Boaties in the Bay of Islands are being asked to take extra care on the water during the race tomorrow.

Organisers ask harbour users to look out for swimmers, who will leave Russell Wharf at 10.30am and take about two hours to complete the 3.3km crossing to Paihia.

Six IRBs and 18 Surf Life Saving NZ lifeguards on ski boards will escort the swimmers, while crews aboard two outer perimeter safety boats will warn boats approaching swimmers to head between Russell beach and a white Fullers GreatSights jet boat that will tail the last swimmers and open the channel for normal use. The field should be fairly concentrated early on but as the race progresses it will spread.

Boaties are also asked to take care at Paihia where three shorter swims will be held just off the beach at 12.35pm (1000m), 1.15pm (300m), and 1.50pm (200m State OceanKids).

A 2000m triangular course off the beach will be used for the 3.3km swim if unsafe ocean conditions force the cancellation of the Russell-Paihia crossing.