THE Ironwmoman Series was thrown wide open after overall leader Courtney Hancock fell victim to messy, tricky conditions at Newcastle yesterday.
Defending series champion Hancock, the winner of the opening two rounds at Surfers Paradise and Portsea, failed to qualify for the final after being knocked out in the first race of the round-three eliminator format and lost her series lead.
In the final, Northcliffe veteran Kristyl Smith charged through the choppy conditions to claim her first win in years, with her clubmate Elizabeth Pluimers finishing second.
Alyce Bennett made it a Gold Coast trifecta by coming home third.
Only two Sunshine Coast competitors made the final, with Mooloolaba duo Danielle Allen and Nikki Chapman finishing sixth and eighth respectively.
Sunshine Coast-based Kirsty Holmes, competing for Northcliffe in her comeback season, finished fifth.
The podium was filled by seasoned campaigners, fulfilling the pre-event forecast that the conditions would suit the veterans.
"These conditions, I think, just suited the experienced and the older girls," Smith said.
"So yeah, experience really showed through."
Hancock was knocked off her ski by a large wave on the second of the three legs and by the time she retrieved the ski, her race was effectively over.
She gamely battled on to finish second-last in the 20-strong women's field.
"It's going to affect me a lot. I'll probably lose the lead after this," Hancock said.
Allen, 17, was delighted with her performance despite a wave knocking her off the ski in the final.
Given her previous poor form in eliminator races and yesterday's unforgiving conditions at Newcastle, she said she was happy just to make the final.
Six competitors were eliminated in each of the first two races, with the top eight contesting the final.
"I'm known at training to have the worst surf skills out of everyone," Allen said.
"I was pretty scared this morning. So to go out and at least make it in three times, I was pretty happy with that."
Round three: 1 K Smith, 2 L Pluimers, 3 A Bennett, 4 B Moir, 5 K Holmes, 6 D Allen, 7 H Brown, 8 N Chapman.
Overall standings: 1 K Smith 65 points, 2 L Pluimers 54, 3 C Hancock 52, 4 B Moir 43, 5 D Allen 42, 6 H Brown 40, 7 K Perkins 37, 8 A Richardson 32, 9 J Mercer 31, 10 A Bennett 30.
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