Jorden Merrilees beats Olympian Mack Horton in 2017-18 Shipwreck Coast Swim Series leg at Port Fairy.

AN OLYMPIC gold medallist had to settle for second in the Shipwreck Coast Swim Series’ opening leg at Port Fairy on Saturday.

Freestyle specialist Mack Horton’s quest for a third consecutive win at East Beach fell short when his friend, fellow swimmer Jorden Merrilees, pipped him in the 1.2-kilometre event.

“It’s always good to beat Mack, it doesn’t happen very often so I will take this one,” the North Melbourne-based Merrilees said.

Merrilees caught Horton, who won 400m gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, on the last wave to deny him a chance to defend his title.

“I got a little fortunate there, stuck in the right position at the right time,” he said.

Horton said he enjoyed competing at Port Fairy.

“I am just happy to be out there,” he said.

“I come down here for Christmas and New Year’s usually and just do this for a bit of fun, so it was nice Jorden could come down and do this with me this year.”

Ballarat swimmer Ebony Ebenwaldner took out the open women’s section.

The annual three-leg series will move to Warrnambool on Saturday before culminating in Port Campbell on January 20.