AN intense battle in the Shipwreck Coast Swim Series' opener at Port Fairy lifted Isaac Jones' confidence levels ahead of the Lorne Pier to Pub.
The Warrnambool competitor will compete in the iconic ocean swim this weekend against Thomas Hay, who pipped him in the Moyneyana race on Sunday.
Jones stopped the clock in 13 minutes and 56 seconds - two seconds behind Sydney-based university student Hay.
"It is definitely good to push yourself. Sometimes you do those swims (Shipwreck series) and you just go around swimming by yourself but if you're going to get beaten, I'd rather get beaten like that going head-to-head with someone and knowing you gave it your best," Jones said.
"It was very fun to have a race battle like that. He is going to do the Pier to Pub this weekend and we're both in the superfish."
The University of Kentucky graduate, who represented Australia as a teenager, won the Pier to Pub as a junior and has finished runner-up in the superfish section.
"For the Pier to Pub I'd just like to find a front pack and try and hold on as long as I can and a bit of luck at the end with a wave could be good," Jones said of Saturday's race.
"There's no expectations placing-wise. I'd just like to get around and be competitive."
Jones said racing against Hay in the Moyneyana swim was the ideal tune-up.
"There were no waves in Port Fairy so it was almost a bit like a lake swim," he said.
"From the start the guy who won, Tom, I remembered him from some other years, and we got out together and pretty swam the whole course side-by-side. We ended up knocking arms every second or third stroke.
"It was a back-and-forth tussle and the last 100 metres we both gave it our all and ended up crossing the line almost together but he got me at the end."
Bike riding is now a passion for the Emmanuel College teacher who was forced out of the pool for extended periods during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When the school holidays started I started going to the pool again to make sure I have enough feel for the water," Jones said.
"Tom's doing a lot of pool swimming, so it was good confidence knowing I could keep up with him."
Ebony Ebenwaldner was the fastest female, finishing in 15.39.
The next Shipwreck swim is at Portland's Nun's Beach on Saturday, January 15.
It has been added to the schedule.
Warrnambool (January 29) and Port Campbell (February 5) round out the series.
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