Welcome to the inaugural Asia-Pacific Championships in Melbourne, Australia! It's 9:00 p.m. local time and live coverage will begin at 6:00 a.m. (For our North American viewers, that's 2pm EST, Saturday, March 24th). Stay tuned for an exciting day of racing with a stacked field.
Good morning, Melbourne! (And g'day to the rest of you out there watching.) It's four a.m. here in Australia, and the temperature is 11 degrees Celsius under slightly cloudy skies. The intense winds over the past few days have subsided, and the chance of rain has fallen to just 2 percent. We're in for a great day of racing!
Transition is humming and the pro race kicks off in one hour.
"There's not even a puff...the sea looks like a lake." -NZ's Joanna Lawn at transition.
It's Alexander's first race since Hawaii, and it's in his home country. Needless to say, the stakes are high for this race favorite. His countryman, McKenzie, placed ninth in Kona last year, a personal Big Island best for this Taree, NSW boy.
Whit Raymond is now introducing one of the largest Ironman professional fields outside of Kona.
42 professional men are now being introduced into the swim start, which commences in 10 minutes, at 7:00 local time.
Our live race video coverage will commence at 6.55am local time (3.50pm US ET). Click the "Audio/Video" tab at the top of page to view. With the heavy cloud cover this morning, our helicopters have been slightly delayed getting in the air down in Frankston, but we'll be on air with all the action shortly.
The 17 male pros from Australia include three-time Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander, Aussies Luke McKenzie, Luke Bell, Jason Shortis, Joe Gambles, and Greg Bennett.
Europe's got a strong contingent of professionals representing here as well.
The introduction of professionals by name just started this year at Ironman WA (Busselton).
The women are now being introduced into the water...
Eight out of the 28 female professionals are from Australia, including 2010 World Champion Mirinda Carfrae, Rebekah Keat, and Belinda Granger.
She flew in on Friday, having been delayed due to high winds and bad weather in her training base of Noosa, Australia. Thank goodness it was just a short flight.
Wendy Ingraham is our swim spotter today, herself a legend in Ironman racing. She's reported a little bit of chop out on the water and a light breeze. "Swim conditions today are expected to be quite fast," Ingraham said.
The pros have now started their races!
As expected, Clayton Fettell has made an early lead on the swim.
Luke McKenzie is also a strong swimmer, so we're watching closely as some light begins to filter into the bay.
Our age group field is starting to enter the water now.
Fettell has just gone around the first buoy.
Our swim leader, Clayton Fettell states on his website that his career goal is to win Hawaii someday. He's one mile into getting 4000 points to get there...
Our age groupers are off!
There are three women in the lead swim pack, but it's still too dark to tell who they are.
How are they swimming in such low light? An Ironman professional's talents are many and varied.
The swim leg is presented by blueseventy
There are 10 men in the main men's swim group with Luke Bell leading. Then there's a pack of 10 men behind, with Cam Brown about 50 meters back.
Mirinda Carfrae is up in the front of the women's group in her TYR Freak suit. Rachel Joyce and Bek Keat are right there with her.
The water looks like glass today compared to the past few days.
Our standup paddleboader today is a famous Aussie sportsman, Caine Eckstein.
Clayton Fettell has a 100 meter lead on the main group of 10 men.
Rachel Joyce is approaching the pier, with Michelle Vesterby in second.
In the men's field we have Clayton Fettell still in the lead at the 3km mark.
In second place we have a mystery bald competitor, Luke Bell is in third, Greg Benett is in fourth place, and in fifth, Luke McKenzie. There are five more competitors behind them.
Craig Alexander is not in our pack of 10 swim leaders.
Clayton Fettell is on his way in to a crowd of enthusiastic, early-morning spectators.
We are just minutes away from the professional men's finish at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship here in Melbourne.
We're 42 minutes into the swim, with Sunny King Paddleboards leading the way for the elite field.