Three Peaks Race UK 2011. It was a busy early morning for the marshals at Caernarfon, with the leading yachts making rapid progress and the top five arriving before midnight, all with passage times of under eight hours.
This year there were no concerns about the water level for getting across Caernarfon Bar at the entrance to the Menai Strait, as there is now an open channel at all states of the tide. This means there is one less hazard for the competitors, and the deeper keeled boats leading the race knew they would not be held up waiting on the tide to make it into Caernarfon.
Team Whistler lead the way, setting their runners ashore on the pier with a 28 minute lead, over Predator. The White Clouds, Madam Wen and Firefly all came in with eight minutes of each other. In the coming few hours it was a common occurrence to have a queue of boats waiting to get onto the pier as a string of green mast lights appeared out of the darkness and the hulls gradually came into view.
It can be a tricky maneuver getting the runners ashore as the tide is strong and the runners have to clamber up onto a metal walkway under the pier. Its dark, the footing is wet and slippery and the runners have no life jackets on, so it’s a place to take care and all the teams are warned not to rush and to sensible, which they were.
Some skippers managed the tide well and others struggled. Testa Rossa got one runner ashore and had a further four attempts before his partner could join him, while ‘4 Pies and a Pasty’ seemed to be making numerous attempts and never coming close, but it turned out they were just waiting for Donnie Macleod to wake up and get organised. Though to be fair he said they did not wake him in time!
Not surprisingly there were many reports of ‘lumpy’ weather and seasickness, and numerous runners were glad to be ashore, but not exactly at their best for a 24 mile run across Snowdon. After eight or nine hours on a rough sea, they were arriving in the early hours of the morning and packing their rucksacks to set off in the dark. At least it was warm (at sea level anyway) and not raining, but there may still below cloud on Snowdon and it will be much colder at 3000 feet.
Simon Halliday of TestaRossa was very vocal when he climbed ashore. 'I feel like****! He shouted. 'In fact I think I’m dead. I’ve been throwing up the whole way.' Others has similar tales, including Ian Ridgeway off Peaks Addix, who with partner Martin Beale still gave the fastest predicted time for Snowdon to the marshals. (They are aiming at three hours 40 minutes, while the next team in, 4 Pies and a Pasty, said 7 hours.) Not everyone was sick however, Adam Marcinowicz and Gareth Craft from adidas Terrex said they’d slept or rested well and had no problems, and they set off at a rapid rate.
The Irish boat, Danu Technologies had made up a lot of places after their poor start and their runners explained what was going on.
'The boat has only just been put into the water and is not really finished off. ' Said Deon McNeilly. The skipper could not get ashore for two hours this morning to get the parts, then we were late getting out of Barmouth, and had some problems on the way here. The crew are hoping that while we are on the mountain they can sort things out and think we’ll be as fast as any of the others then.'
He added it was his first time on a sailing boat, he’d been sick, everything was wet and coming in had been working feverishly to get the engine started. As a result he came ashore with all his kit in a large plastic bag, and it took some time for the runners to sort themselves out and set off. Their support crew was then going to find a tumble drier to get clothes dried.
When the runners from team Thor arrived they had to exchange their numbered race bibs for the correct ones. They are team number 30, but took bibs for team number four ... when the marshal told them to take the bibs for Team Thor! This young student team are already getting a bit of a reputation as it was thought they were late arriving in Barmouth. They weren’t, they just hadn’t told anyone they were there! They are racing well though, and currently in 10th place.
Not all teams can say the same. Sadly the race had an early retirement with Team Shantih withdrawing due to problems with the main. According the trackers Peaks and Pie have gone into Pwllheli, though at present we don’t know the reason or whether they are continuing in the race.
Three Peaks Yacht Race website