Team Fat (Ter) Boys arrived at the finish at Corpach Lock at 17.41 on Wednesday afternoon after making rapid progress to the finish over the final parts of the course and there was quite a gathering of competitors to applaud them as they came alongside.
They were the first Tilman Cup team to arrive and their two runners for Ben Nevis were Richard Colley and Simon Bond, who had run the Snowdon leg. (Their crew mates Matt James and Rory Reed had completed the long Scafell Pike stage, so they’d already put the required 4 runners on a summit to meet the Tilman rules.) As the pair set off up the mountain they made sure to have their smoking pipes in their mouths for the photos, a nice homage to Tilman by the team.
The weather remained wet and with heavy cloud for the runners on the ascent, but they set a good time of 5 hours 54 minutes and crossed the finish line to win the trophy they came for at 22.40 after a great team effort.
They’d had some late team changes and owner Richard Colley had switched from skipper to runner, with Jonathan Whitley coming in as a late replacement skipper, while for Reed and Jones it their first time sailing.
Whitley said, “It’s been fantastic sailing and a great boat and team. We’ve had South Westerlies all the way, clear moonlit nights, and every stage has had some magic moments. It’s all been positive and enthusiastic, which is down to the character of these guys. There have been no egos at all.”
He added, “I would have loved to have done The Ben to put all of us on a summit but I’m not an athlete or trained for it and I’d have been far too slow for them. I’ll train for next time though!”
On the sailing he said, “We had some scary moments, especially in the Strait, and after we came out I send the others below and sailed single handed, when I think the other more competitive boats kept on pushing.
“I guess that is part of the learning experience as I’m not a race sailor. I was ecstatic when it worked going outside Jura. We only just made it through the Sound of Islay but then had the wind and got away from the army boat. We had the spinnaker up for 60 miles from then on, all the way to the Corran Narrows.”
Reed told me the sailing experience had been enjoyable despite a bit of early seasickness, and Colley told me when the runners came back from Scafell they were ‘pale and quiet, there was deathly silence on the boat, and they went below for 12 hours!” They did recover enough to enjoy fishing and cooking some fresh mackerel while becalmed for a while off the Mull of Galloway though!
The only other boat in the Tilman Cup this year was the Infantry Training Centre team, who had been with the Fat(ter) Boys off Islay, but opted to go into the Sound of Jura and were stuck in the tide with no wind. In the end they finished 7 hours behind them and had to use their engine to get to Corpach, so will move into the Challenge category and not achieve a race finish.
One reason was that Ashley Williams is back on duty on Friday but he still went up Ben Nevis with Richard Hoy, and on his 28th birthday too. They had some nasty conditions with snow and hail on their overnight run, and came back down to cross the finish line at 05.50 on Thursday.
Skipper Frank Cannon said the team had worked together well and those new to sailing had taken to it and were planning on doing some more. There wasn’t much time for them to reflect on their race though, as within a few hours they were in a minibus back to base, and the boat was handed over to another skipper and crew, ready to be taken back to Newcastle, going via the Caledonian Canal.
That leaves only Don't Look Down out on the course, still some way from the finish but with plenty of time to get there. The race rang them to check in and I spoke to Kenneth Robinson who said, "We are determined to get to the finish in the spirit of Tilman and enjoying every minute of the sail."
He is particuarly keen to get the finish as he wants to rush of fand visit his daughter and new born grandchild in Aberdeen, who are both doing well after a very premature birth. To hurry things along a bit the team have also opted to use their engine so they will join the Army team in the Challenge category.
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