Ironman dreams founder in surprisingly flat Portsea surf

By TONY WHITE

YAMBA surf lifesaver Hugh Dougherty's Kellog's NutriGrain Ironman dream was shattered in surprisingly calm waters in Portsea, Victoria, yesterday.

The 21-year-old finished 12th in round two of the elite series and 14th overall in the elite competition.

Only the top 10 of 20 competitors qualify for the finals at Coogee Beach, Sydney, on January 30.

The traditional big surf at Portsea was absent with only a small 1m swell running.

Again luck deserted Dougherty.

The format involves two qualifying races ? board, swim, ski ? with five being eliminated after each race cluminating in a 10-man final.

"I got through the first race but about six of us, battling for 8th to 13th, caught the same wave in the second race in the ski leg," Dougherty said.

"Unfortunately I stumbled off the ski and missed out in the run up the beach finishing 12th.

"At least I did better than in the first round (16th).

"No-one could believe how small the surf was. The locals reckon it's the smallest they have ever seen it for the event.

"Even though I didn't get through it has been a great experience. This type of racing is a lot different than I'm used to and now I've had a bit of experience I'm keen to try and qualify again."

Quaifying for the 2005-06 series is held in November.

In the interim Dougherty will concentrate on numerous major surf lifesaving carnivals in NSW and Queensland.

He returns home to Yamba today before heading back to his training base at Tugun.

Winner at Portsea was Ky Hurst.

Defending Nutri-Grain champion Zane Holmes was a shock elimination failing to make the final.

Hurst, on the comeback trail after a 12-month absence from the series, cruised to victory over Nathan Smith and veteran, Dean Mercer.

Round one winner Shannon Eckstein finished last in the 10-man final.

Hurst collected $5,000 for his victory and leads the series on 39 points ahead of Jeremy Cotter (34) and Eckstein (31).



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