FORMER Yamba surf life saving star Alyce Bennett winning her first Nutri Grain ironwoman race.
FORMER Yamba surf life saving star Alyce Bennett winning her first Nutri Grain ironwoman race.

Alyce wins a surf war of attrition

ALL summer long beach-goers have been warned to swim between the flags and stay away from rips.

However, the potentially fatal water currents have come to the rescue for ironwoman, Alyce Bennett, as she survived the wild seas to claim her maiden Kellogg's Ironman series victory at Coolum Beach, Queensland on Saturday.

The former Yamba competitor said before the race her trainer, Wes Berg and handler, Jim Dougherty, had told her to head to the Southern break of the beach.

“Wes and Jim had been looking at the beach all morning and saw the rip,” she said.

“So I just kept on going out that way every time.

“Just listen to Jim and everything takes care of itself.”

The fact swimmers are continually warned away from rips was not lost on Bennett.

“As a surf life saver you are always saying 'swim between the flags',” she said.

“(But) anything that gets me out the back quicker, especially in conditions like that, I'm going to take it.”

Coolum Beach was pummelled with a two-metre swell over the weekend and the turbulent conditions turned both the men's and women's event into a war of attrition.

Bennett said everything 'went my way' as the raging surf continued to gobble up competitors boards and skis and wreak havoc in the swim legs.

“It was just a dream run and I came out top in the pack,” she said.

“I was on the board leg and I had a bit of time ... the girl I had been racing all day went into a wave and her board snapped.”

Unfortunately, Bennett could not maintain her victorious form in yesterday's race, falling behind to finish in 11th position.

“I was on the Northern end of the beach and I got hit with a few waves,” she said

“In the board I just couldn't catch up.”

Fellow former Clarence Valley resident Hugh Dougherty, who finished fifth on Saturday and then backed it up with a ninth position yesterday, said competitors could not settle into a rhythm in the large conditions.

“The surf was pretty big all over the place,” he said.

“I was up there in the last leg ... but the leaders got over a wave and I got left behind.

“You just have to be lucky and when a break comes you have to go for it and take it.”

Dougherty said he could not take the same avenue as Bennett because the rip was not 'working as good'.

Both Bennett and Dougherty said the championship is still wide open going in the double point, final round event at Coogee, Sydney on February 22.

“Last year only two of the top six girls going into the final round were still there after the event had finished,” Bennett said.

“This year there are eight girls who can realistically win (the championship).”

Bennett is fifth in the overall women's championship, while Dougherty sits in seventh position on the men's side of the draw.

Only the top six competitors directly qualify for next year's Kellogg's Ironman series.

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