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Teams, Tactics and Trophies

Rob Howard / Photo : Rob Howard / 15.06.2019

Alain Poncelet

Barmouth Quay is busy today with the new 10k road race taking place with 400 runners, and  the new ‘Day On The Quay’ Festival taking place, but for the competitors it has mostly been a more relaxed start day than usual due to the 19.30 start time. 

That’s much later than  normal and allows plenty of time for the completion of registration and race paperwork, the scrutineering of the boat (during which their tracker is fitted), the runners kit check, pre-race shopping and all those last minute jobs.  And if does of course allow more time for all of the team to arrive by road or train.

One team who were not quite so relaxed last night and this morning were Wight Rose, one of the most experienced teams in the race.  Last night they found out Czech Ultra Runner Pavel Paloncy, who has raced here twice before and also won King of the Mountains, would not be coming due to illness.  

Without a complete team it seemed they might not be able to race after all, but a combination of an internet appeal and the race grapevine found them a replacement overnight.  Local runner Andy Sanderson, who has done the race before, stepped up and the race had a full start line up again.

The race briefing is not until 15.00 and this year the rules are a bit more complicated as multi-hulls are rejoining the race for the first time for 20 years.  There are two separate races now of course, each run under handicap (IRC and MOCRA) to find the winners.  (Though there are other trophies for first over the line in each class too.)

However, the running competition (King of the Mountains) and the trophies for each peak are open to runners off of all the racing boats, whether multi or monohull.  Then there is the Tilman Cup, which is one of the most important trophies and is named after the local mountaineer and sailor who inspired the race.  

To win this teams have to put 4 on a summit and again both multis and monos will compete together, but with no handicapping applied to the sailing. It will be a straight race and the first successful team over the line will be the winner.  There are four teams down to race for the Tilman Cup; Roaring Forties, Fat(ter) Boys, Infantry Training Centre and the trimaran Wandering Glider.  

Obviously the multihull will have an advantage in speed, though that will give the runners less recovery time between the peaks.  I suspect they are also playing a tactical game as their only declared runners on entry were Mike Ridley and Dan Withers, so they could be entering with the idea that two of the crew could walk up Ben Nevis at the end of the race if there is the chance to win the trophy. The same might apply to Roaring Forties whose priority will be the outright race win and who have two runners listed on their entry.

Fat(ter) Boys are definitely planning which runners to send up which peaks, and the team name comes from the Hathersage Fat Boys running club.  Their first skipper was Richard Colley, but now he is replacing a runner who dropped out and is set for the run up Snowdon. Jon Whitely came in as replacement skipper just 2 weeks ago and although he is the only one on the team not planning on a summit he did take part in the 10k race this morning! 

The Infantry Training Centre are a team who have also had late replacements. They have the lowest handicap  the race and  the light winds forecast for Wednesday onwards won’t favour them. Skipper Frank Cannon told me they have not brought oars. “It’s not a boat you want to row,” he said.  They are keeping Richard (Shipper) Hoy back for the Ben Nevis run and will see who is the fittest at the end of the race to go up with him.

Most of the teams have support crews with them, but not all.  The Belgian boat Denebola Ventures don’t and they have their bikes on board their self built 30 foot yacht, which is the smallest in the race. Skipper Alain Poncelet told me, “They are completely broken down as it is the only way to fit them in, and we have to build them before we arrive at Whitehaven, which will be interesting to do on board, especially if we are in rough weather or going quickly!”

He is sailing with his son Matisse (24) who wanted to do the race for their annual offshore trip and Alain said, “It will be a great experience for him and unlike any sailing we have on the sandy coast of Belgium!”

Whether they are old hands or new to the race it looks set to be a great event, with the multi-hulls back and a lot of fast boats racing this year, plus the likelihood of fast conditions up to Whitehaven and the possibility calm after that.  It’s all to play for and anything could happen!

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About The Author

Rob Howard
Rob is Editor of He's traveled the world reporting on and photographing adventure races and day-to-day he keeps his finger on the pulse of AR to ensure SleepMonsters is the heartbeat of the sport.

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