As the race clock ticked around into the early hours of Wednesday morning there were two pairs of runners on Ben Nevis, dealing with some difficult over night conditions.
The runners from Roaring Forties, James Haywood and Edward Griffiths, described very low visibility on the summit and working off pacings and bearings to safely locate the summit cairn just after 2am, and around the same time Giles Silvester and James Luff were crossing the finish line for Peaky Blinders.
The rest of the team off the big Catamaran were waiting to greet them in the rain, having suffered a severe disappointment earlier when they’d arrived at the nearest pub to the finish at just after 11pm!
As it turned out they had more to celebrate than a successful race finish. When the results were calculated later in the morning and their handicap applied ... they were the winners of the multihull category!
Wandering Glider had taken the line honours 6 hours and 42 minutes ahead of them, but the handicap differential between the two teams was significant. The adjusted times put Peaky Binders as the clear winners in 3 days 8 hours and 58 minutes, ahead of Wandering Glider in 3 days 13 hours 6 minutes.
They had a lot of race experience on board with past competitors as both sailors and runners. Giles Silvester had run twice before and James Luff once. Luff said, “We found it hard this time with less time to rest between the peaks and I could not eat as much as I’d have like to after Snowdon as we were in such rough weather.” He added that the boat was very comfortable accommodation (and it looked it).
John Day said, “It’s the first time sailing on a catamaran and it’s different, but it does go fast in the right conditions!” It was fast enough to win the third leg on handicap and help push them to a race win.
Skipper Chris Ross had his own back to the teasing by Cris Miles, who called them “Perky Blunders” when they beat them into the finish, and then sportingly helped them come safely into the finish line last night.
Miles told me about the loss of engine power which hit them on the final stage. “It was battery failure,” he said. “We have a back-up battery, but it had been left on and drained so we went dark and lost all power to the engine and navigation instruments . We tried to heat the battery to start it, putting heat pads on it, even heating cutlery in the oven and wrapping it up, but it turned over once and died. That meant we had to get to the finish the old school way with compass and charts!” It was a challenging end to a difficult race for the team and they still managed to finish 5th overall.
In 4rd overall were the Belgian boat Denebola skippered by Alain Poncelet. They also won the second sailing stage with an impressive sail to Whitehaven in winds which their instruments recorded a highest gust of 38 knots. Alain told me a bit more about losing their heavy weather spinnaker. “We were worried,” he said, “as we could not bring it down in the wind ... but the wind solved the problem by ripping it to shreds!”
He added, “This race is so much more than just sailing and is unlike any other sailing race, it is a real adventure.”
Christophe Storme who had twisted his ankle on the Ben Nevis run, told me, “The race was a great experience and I loved every minute of it. It was my first time doing more than day sailing and the mountains were beautiful but tough.“ His team mate Annelies Brak had missed out on the final run up Ben Nevis, but she went up this morning, along with Daniel Ayers from DDMT, who went up a second time to keep her company!
All of the boats spent the day in the lock basin, using some morning sunshine to dry out, before the rain came back again later in the day. This evening they are exchanging race tales in the local pub before heading home, which for Denebola means a cruise through the magnificent Caledonian Canal, completing their circuit from Belgium and around much of the UK.
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