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Three Peaks Race - ‘Man overboard’ drama on day 2

by Peter Campbell on 31 Mar 2013
Three Peaks Race - Whistler Peter Campbell
In the 2013 Tasmanian Three Peaks Race, Hobart yachtsman David Rees still plans to lead his Team Whistler in a final climb to the peak of Mount Wellington, despite being the centre of a dramatic ‘man overboard’ incident shortly after starting the second sailing leg yesterday morning.

Despite the dunking, Rees and his yacht Whistler are back in the race, still aiming to win the prestigious Tilman Trophy that requires, among overall sailing and running performances, for the sailors to join the specialist runners in the final endurance climb from Hobart’s Constitution Dock to Mount Wellington and back.

Whistler ran aground on a sand bank at the southern tip of Vansittart Island, south-east of Flinders Island, about 9.30am yesterday and as the crew was attempting to get the 36-footer off the sandbank, Rees fell overboard.


The fast-running tide and choppy seas swept Rees away in from his yacht, but another competitor, coincidentally named Whistler World, skippered by Robert Finlay from Low Head, plucked him out of the water within a matter of minutes.

Rees was transferred to a Police boat which delivered him back to the still grounded Whistler, with the crew radioing race officials that their skipper was 'cold but in good spirits and down below getting dry and warm…we are continuing with the race.'

With the aid of a rising tide, the rest of the crew managed to free Whistler from the sand bank, hoist sails and take off in pursuit of the race leaders on the 145 nautical mile second sailing leg to Coles Bay on the East Coast.

Winning the Tilman Trophy is the big challenge in this year’s Tasmanian Three Peaks Race for Rees and his crew after taking out the Tilman Trophy in the British Three Peaks Race last year.

Team Whistler had been well placed after the first sailing leg from Beauty Point on the Tamar to Lady Barron on Good Friday and the 65km overnight endurance run across Flinders Island to Mount Strzelecki. Team Whistler was fifth of the 11 boats to set sail for Coles Bay about 8.30am yesterday.

Late yesterday afternoon, Whistler was south-east of Eddystone Point, well astern of the leading yachts, the big catamarans Peccadillo, skippered by Melbourne yachtsman Charles Meredith and Steven Laird’s Euphoria Furniture from Hobart, and the leading monohull, Andrew Jones; AdvantagEDGE from the Port Sorell.

At that stage Peccadillo was less than ten nautical miles from the second stopover, Coles Bay, where the runners face a 35km night run through the bushland to Mount Freycinet and return.

However, less than an hour later the record-breaking catamaran Peccadillo was forced to retire thee Three Peaks Race after loosing steering when both rudders sheared off about 20 nautical miles north of the Freycinet Peninsula.

Late tonight she was motoring towards the second port in the Three Peaks course, Coles Bay, using her twin outboards to steer. Skipper Charles Meredith has requested that the team’s runners be able to complete the Coles Bay running leg to Mount Strzelecki and back, and the race director has given his approval.

In a radio call to Three Peaks Race chairman Alastair Douglas, Meredith said both rudders, newly installed on the Atlantic 46 catamaran, had sheared off as she ran before a following sea down the East Coast.

'They are motoring into Coles Bay, using the outboard motors to steer the boat and expect the berth there before midnight,' Douglas said. 'Charles was bitterly disappointed but at least he has a record to his credit in this race, the sailing leg from Beauty Point to Lady Barron.'

Douglas said it was not clear at that stage which boat was now leading the 10 boats still competing in the Three Peaks Race.

'The Tamar yacht AdvantEDGE’s position is shown on the race tracker at 9pm as four nautical miles north-east of Schouten Island, but Euphoria Furniture’s tracker is not sending a signal. However, we believe the two yachts are not far apart.' He added.

Both yachts were expected to reach Coles Bay at the end of the 145 nautical mile sailing leg from Lady Barron before midnight tonight with the runners then setting off on the night run through bushland to Mount Freycinet and return.

In third place in the fleet last night was Cables Plus Tas – MS, Peter Newman’s catamaran from Devonport. The Dovell 36, Whistler was steadily improving her position in the fleet after running aground off Vansittart Island and having skipper David Rees fall overboard, but quickly rescued.

The first five yachts on the sailing leg from Beauty Point to Lady Barron were Peccadillo (Charles Meredith, Vic), Euphoria Furniture (Steven Laird, Tas), AdvantEDGE (Andrew Jones, Tas), Whistler (David Rees, Tas) and Cables Plus Tas-MS (Peter Newman, Tas).


The runners on Euphoria Furniture made up 30 minutes time on the Peccadillo team on the Flinders Island/Mount Strzelecki leg) but the runners of Cable Plus Tas-MS had the best time 6 hours 20 minutes and 30 seconds for the 65km run and mountain climb. AdvantEDGE’s running time was just 9 minutes and 23 seconds slower.

The final leg of the Three Peaks is 100 nautical miles to Hobart followed by the 1270m climb of Mount Wellington, with the leading yachts expected to berth in Hobart late this evening or early on Easter Monday.

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