Image: Lorne SLSC/Mark Dadswell
Australian Mack Horton may be the reigning Olympic men’s 400m freestyle champion after his victory over Sun Yan at the Rio Olympics but his blistering speed wasn’t quite enough to beat six-time (now seven-time) Lorne Pier to Pub champion Sam Sheppard.
Despite relatively benign swimming conditions, Sheppard’s open water skills and experience saw him emerge from the water slightly ahead of Horton and then leave him a few metres back as he sprinted across the sand to the finish line. Even so, the gap was just one second.
The 1.2km swim is contested from the Lorne pier to the foreshore in front of the Lorne Surf Lifesaving Club. The 2017 event took place on 7 January. Sheppard’s time this year of 11:16 was more than a minute behind his record for the course of 10:02.
In the women’s event Harriet Brown notched up a record equalling sixth win, beating former champion Naantali Marshall by nearly 30 seconds. The two now share the title of most wins.
As well as the elite race, the event attracts around 5,000 regular swimmers (making it one of the biggest open water races in the world) and a huge crowd of supporters, estimated to be more than 25,000 people. Additional safety measures were put in place this year following recent shark sightings.
Proceeds from the swim go to the Lorne Surf Life Saving Club to help fund its voluntary lifesaving activities on the Lorne foreshore.
Registration for next year’s event opens on 6 November and places are on a first come, first served basis. The race takes place on 13 January 2018.