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Fast Forward Through Whitehaven

Rob Howard / 17.06.2019
The runners from Denebola
The runners from Denebola / © Rob Howard

The pace of the race sped up on the second leg with fast sailing times from Caernarfon to Whitehaven in winds which the teams reported as strong as 35 knots. 

This meant the leaders arrived on Sunday just before midnight to send their runners out onto the longest mountain stage in the night, which was tough ask.  It was a very wet night and only 14 hours after the 24 mile Snowdon run.  The chances are they may have been seasick too.

The Dougie Dalzell Memorial Trust were first in, with Peak Performers and Denebola minutes behind them. Denebola might have come in first had they not needed to take time to assemble their bikes and they won the second sail in a corrected time of 12 hours 42 minutes, which is not far outside the record .

All 3 pairs of runners set off into the night on their bikes to ride 20 miles to Ennerdale, and then trek over Black Sail Pass, down into Wasdale and up Scafell Pike to reach their second summit.   DDMT and Peak Performers were close together throughout the whole bike/run and managed to record times of 7.43 and 7.51 respectively.  

The race is really on between these two teams and when they got back to the Marina Daniel Ayers and Ben Zeman dropped their bikes for the support crew and kept on running along the pontoons right to the boat.  The boats then set off together, through the sea lock and on their way to Fort William.

Denebola’s runners were over 3 hours slower with Analise Brak and Simon Kerkhozer running this stage. The team have a smart team strategy for the running with 3 runners on board (2 of them sailors), which means each has to complete two mountain stages.

As it happened returning any earlier would have done them no good as Alain Poncelet had been sent off to hospital with an eye injury resulting from being caught in the face by a sheet in the rough conditions.  His eye is weeping and painful, but he came back with medical permission to go on and clutching a tube of ointment. He’d not been back long before the runners returned. The team then broke down the bikes to store them in the small cabin. The frames only just fitted through the hatch!

Like many of the other teams the Belgians reported high winds and exciting and challenging sailing. They lost their heavy weather spinnaker, as did Peak Performers, and Roaring Forties had a difficult time when they lost steering in 25 knots of wind.  If you look at the tracking you can see them veer off East, and keep going for a long distance. They brought things under control, and later lost the spinnaker off its pole and broke a winch. 

Most of the lead boats hit speeds of 16 to 17 knots and an excited Peter Ashworth (Peak Performers) said, “It as the best sail of my life.”   The boat was surfing and Ashworth said the team, who are raising funds for the National Amyloidosis Centre, were laughing as they were going down the waves. Some of that might have been nervous laughter at times!

Chris Morris on DDMT said they hit 16 knots, but that “over 13 knots the rudder does not work, so we just have to let her go!”  Michell Thorneloe on Wandering Glider said the boat was really feeling the strain.

The boats continued to come in through the early morning and the runners were all on Scafell Pike in daylight, not that there were any views to be had.  Cloud was settled low over the mountain and it was a windy and wet climb. So far on this race the runners have not had the best of conditions.

During their run they all stopped at the historic Wasdale Head Inn and the regular marshal crew of Steve and Laura were there to check them through (just as a safety check), and offer them drinks and flapjack from the boot of their car. The pair has done this important job for 10 years now, and Steve’s history with the race goes back to competing in 1981.

At the time of writing they are waiting for the last 2 teams to come down off the mountain (Infantry Training Centre and Don’t Look Down) and these boats and Jumpa Lagi should leave tonight.  This group are several hours behind Roaring Forties and Fat (ter) Boys, but that’s in a fast race which the winners should finish on Tuesday.  All the boats have until next Friday to cross the line so there is plenty of time and the only issue might be that the wind is forecast to drop towards the end of the week.

For tonight however the forecast is still for fast sailing and favourable winds to push them northwards towards Ben Nevis.

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About The Author

Rob Howard
Rob is Editor of SleepMonsters.com. 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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