Japan’s top-ranked open water swimmer beat Bond University club mate George O’Brien by 15 seconds over the 3.3 km course.
Hirai sat in second place for most of the from the historic town of Russell, firstly behind Troy Balvert who led until the halfway mark and then on the feet of O’Brien. The 24-year-old Japanese made a burst with 300 meters to swim.
“I’m very happy to win in my first Series in New Zealand,” said Hirai. “I tried to conserve energy as I have some speed at the end and that was what I needed today.”
Philip Ryan was the best of the locals, 12 seconds behind O’Brien in third, with another Queenslander Michael Shiel and Balvert making up the top five. Ryan led briefly at the fourth marker when the field closed up, but by the fifth buoy the winner was only going to be one of the foreign visitors.
Almost 700 competitors competed in round one of the Series which continues in Auckland on December 7th.
Top men’s results:
1. Yasunari Hirai (JPN) 43.59
2. George O’Brien (AUS) 44.14
3. Philip Ryan (NZL) 44.26
Remaining race on the Series:
Stage 2: Harbour Crossing, Auckland, December 7th 2014
Stage 3: Capital Classic, Wellington, January 25th 2015
Stage 4: La Grande Swim, Akaroa, Christchurch, February 15th 2015
Stage 5: Sand to Surf, Mt Maunganui, March 21st 2015
Stage 6: King of the Bays, Auckland, April 18th 2015
Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association