Easter turned on the weather in Tasmania for the annual H&R Block Three Peaks Race.
Celebrating after one of the toughest H&R Block Three Peaks Races ever, the crew of the winning yacht Mobile Travel Agents Big Wave Rider - H&R Block Three Peaks Race
At 2pm on Good Friday, with no wind in the river, teams rowed away from the start line at Beauty Point and headed towards Bass Strait, aided only by their oars and an outgoing tide, although Peccadillo did unveil a 'secret' pedalling system with high aspect propeller blades that moved the big cat well.
First across the line was team Whistler Sport, a Thompson 920 sports boat with two sets of sweep oars. By the time the yachts rowed into a strengthening northerly, Whistler Sport had the jump and was first past the Low Head light and its ominous fog horn farewell. Fog blanketed Bass Strait as the yachts made slow progress towards Flinders Island in a light north easterly. But a front was due.
Later Friday evening the expected front swept through the fleet, the wind backed to the west and increased until it was blowing a steady 50 knots with gusts into the mid 60’s – well beyond expectations.
Leader Mobile Travel Agents reduced sail progressively until they were doing 19 knots under just storm jib. Advantedge destroyed her mainsail, UK Peaks Challenge couldn’t get their main to work to windward and ran through Banks Strait and out to sea, while Whistler Sport sought shelter behind Clarke Island.
MTA arrived at Flinders Island first, followed by Deguello Brierley Marine but each took nearly half an hour to tidy up and motor to the wharf. Advantedge struggled in as first monohull, Haphazard ran aground on a sandy spit, and eventually Euphoria Furniture, Peccadillo, Elphinstone Weigh To Go, Centre Euro Wines, Apollonius and Tilt Genesis Fitness all made it safely into port.
Organisers held the fleet until conditions abated from gale strength to strong wind, before sending them on their way to Flinders Island. Prudent sail selection meant all arrived safely at Coles Bay where Elphinstone Weigh To Go retired after one runner experienced difficulty on Mt Freycinet. Advantedge sailed this leg with just a trysail and arranged for an old main to be transported to Coles Bay. On the plus side, runners Chris Wight and John Winsbury from Peccadillo broke the record for the run through Freycinet National Park that has stood since 1997.
MTA almost threw the race away when they elected to take the Denison Canal shortcut. Strong tidal outflow and 20 knot winds blowing out of the canal prevented transit, and they were also forced to wait out the compulsory midnight to 4am bridge closure.
Only manhandling the big cat through with crew in the water and lines ashore enabled MTA to sail to Hobart ahead of their opposition; Advantedge, Euphoria Furniture and Peccadillo who elected to sail around Tasmania Island. Only seas over 4 metres and a 25-30 knot south westerly in Storm Bay prevented these boats from overtaking MTA.
The remainder of the fleet who chose the canal either retired, or took the 18 hour time penalty and motored through before resuming sailing.
By Monday evening the winning multihull team MTA, which included solo record holders Bruce Arms and Jessica Watson, had received their accolades after the final mountain run, and all other teams had arrived in Hobart and their runners were all off Mt Wellington. Show, sleet and strong winds had buffeted the runners on the final peak completing the kaleidoscope of conditions that defined the 2012 H&R Block Three peaks Race.
Although Peccadillo rested in Port Arthur for a few hours and were behind Euphoria Furniture into Hobart, their gun runners retook second in the multihull division.
Advantedge’s persistence brought them the Monohull division trophy. Centre Euro Wines and Apollonius both officially arrived in Hobart with a time penalty to add, but the Apollonius runners did not complete the mountain together, leaving Centre Euro Wines as second placed monohull.
Despite being a tough year, all teams acknowledged the challenge was worth the enormous effort with the 25th race in 2013 shaping up to be a full house.
* Haphazard was refloated from White Beach on Saturday evening, and sailed back to Beauty Point on Tuesday with no damage to boat or crew.
Despite a grounding and spending a full day on the beach, Haphazard was refloated without damage. - H&R Block Three Peaks Race