The 43rd Three Peaks Yacht Race - Sponsored by E.ON

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The 43rd Three Peaks Yacht Race, Sponsored by E.ON, is Underway!

Rob Howard / 19.06.2021Live TrackingSee All Event Posts Follow Event
The race start
The race start / © Rob Howard

At times it seemed like the 43rd race would have to be postponed for a second year running due to Covid restrictions, but with lots of hard work and plenty of determination, it proved possible to find a way to hold the race.  Sixteen teams wanted to race enough to risk some months of uncertainty, and when they finally  eached  start line their faith and commitment was rewarded with a superb start. 

With 5 minutes to the gun there wasn’t a breath of wind and oars were on deck ready to row ... then, out of nowhere, a steady south-easterly  breeze sprang up, the sails filled, and within minutes of crossing the line spinnakers were hoisted, the race was on, and the boats were on their way to Bardsey Head!

Earlier in the day the teams had made final preparations and listened to the race briefing by Dave Bursnall, and it all felt a little strange.  There were no spectators or other activities surrounding the race this year, so the harbour front was quiet, the 10k race had been cancelled, and the Merioneth Yacht Club, usually the centre of all race activity, served only as a pick up point for trackers and bibs.  The bar, where the race briefing is usually held, and which is the social hub of the race was closed.

Runners checked in at the boat shed in masks and behind screens, and the briefing was held in the boat yard with limited numbers and social distancing. 

There was the chance for some chat between the teams, who had come from all other the UK, some of them regular racers (there are several skippers and boats which have been previous winners), and others who are new to the race. 

Some had only just met!  The team with Charles Clarke on Beaumaris based  Whisky Galore, were put together in the last month through the race website notice board and none had ever met before, while  the two Royal Marine runners on Team Joy hadn’t known their team before volunteering to race.

There were the usual late changes, one being the injury to Tom Gibbs from the Bare Necessities team, who was replaced with an equally fast mountain runner in Mark Davies, who has finished in the top 10 of the iconic 5 day, 220 mile, Dragon’s Back Race.  (He shares this feat with the skipper of Kokiri, Chris Kemp, but he ran the first one in 1992.)  

Davies is running with Chris Near and they will be contenders, maybe favourites, for King of the Mountains, but their boat, being the only multihull, is effectively in a race on its own.  (We have tried to give them with a ‘monohull equivalent’ handicap just for a fun comparison, but they won’t be in the rankings.)  Skipper Bruce Sutherland is in his second race, and the first was 25 years ago!

The multihull will be competing directly with the faster monohull boats this year, such as Lightning Reflex, being sailed as Team ‘That’s Not My Dog’.  This team is by far the youngest in the race, all being 23 or 24, and while they are experienced sailors they don’t know the race at all and  have less long distance running experience than most.

 The race record was set in Lightning Reflex, with Geoff West as owner/skipper, and he is racing this year in his other boat, the X99 Tactix.  This boat is one of the smallest this year, but has won in the past, and could win again.  West is in his 16th race and co-skipper Dave Bird in his 15th, so they have a wealth of race experience and will no doubt be planning to beat the young team to Fort William.

White Clouds is a past winner too, Aurora and the Forty Somethings have placed highly previously, and Team Joy in the JPK10.10 should be in the mix.  It’s going to be a highly competitive race.

When all the race prep was done and the masks were taken off it was time for the Barmouth lifeboat to lead the fleet out to the start line a mile off shore and they were accompanied by the usual flotilla of local boats of all kinds. 

At 15.55 when the five minute warning was announced over the radio it looked like being a rowing a start, and then, just as the boats turned for the line, the sails filled, and the 43rd race was off! 

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