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

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Strait or Round is the Choice For Snowdon Sunday

Rob Howard / 20.06.2021Live TrackingSee All Event Posts Follow Event
Mark Davies on Snowdon
Mark Davies on Snowdon / © Rob Howard

So much happens in the first 24 hours of the Three Peaks Yacht Race that the day can seem like a week, and for some teams today it may have felt like a lifetime!

The lack of wind on the first night of the race beyond Bardsey Head, stopped the teams progress, or pushed them back at times, and all moved slowly towards Caernarfon Bar and the entrance to the Menai Strait. Team That’s Not My Dog in the Reflex 38 were first to arrive at the pier at Caernarfon at 03.47, closely followed by Joy, and then a steady flow of boats as the day dawned.

For the heavier and smaller boats, with less sail and less engine power it was harder to get into the Strait, and they took much longer.  The back of the fleet was all but becalmed in sight of the buoy where they could put their engine on and the fierce outflowing tide turned against them.  Whisky Galore got ahead of Kokiri and Driac and a large engine powered the boat down the strait, but Driac, who had to row past the buoy, and Kokiri, found their troubles were not over as their engines struggled to move them forward and it took an age to motor in.

As they passed the buoy they saw Bare Necessities motoring back to it, their runners having already completed Snowdon.  They had decided not to fight tide and wind and try the passage of the Strait, and opted for the much longer sail around Anglesey. It was a choice made by 5 other boats later in the day.

For the runners the conditions were quite good, though there was cloud cover on the summit and ironically it was windy and much cooler on the top.  It was a different climate to that down in Caernarfon just 10 miles away.

Sam Deller and Neil Golding from Joy were the first back to the boat, just ahead of Owen Bowerman and Will Ward from TNM Dog, but the winners of the best Snowdon time were Stu Walker and Dave Robinette of Wild Spirit in 3 hours 38 minutes. 

Chris Brown and Max Wainwright from Forty Somethings were next quickest in 3.46, but it would be to no avail.  With a northerly wind rising and the tide flowing against them they decided to follow Bare Necessities around Anglesey.  It was a fateful decision as they ran aground and it was close to high water so they didn’t refloat until many hours later.  They did set off again, but subsequently decided to retire into Caernarfon.

The boats who went into the strait made very slow progress at first, with the tide against them an increasingly strong head wind.  As the tide slackened and the wind increased they made more progress, beating northward and criss-crossing the narrow channel dozens of times while at the same time trying to avoid the rocks.

By the time the leaders reached the Swellies, between the Britannia and Menai Bridges, they were making more rapid progress and they passed through without incident. Joy and White Clouds were side by side, and so were Wild Spirit and Aurora and they were racing hard all the way up to Puffin Island and beyond.  Later, Bare Necessities joined the lead group and it seemed nothing had been won or lost by their ‘round Anglesey’ route. They are racing closely with TNM Dog into Whitehaven.

A little behind this lead group came Bee and the Bros and the remaining boats split 50/50 on whether to attempt the strait.  Those that did reported the toughest of conditions. 

JR Williams on LETS Run said, “Epic transit of the Straits this afternoon. It was blowing Force 6 on the nose and we tried to row through with no sails, but kept getting blown back.  The tried with 2 reefs combo and thanks to the skill of Geoff West we managed to get through at quite low water. “

He added, “I don’t want to do it like that again any time soon ... apart  from next year that is!”

West also lead the Marine Conservation Society team through.  They said, “That was really tough.  We went aground off Port Dinorwic and then Geoff showed us the way through!  It took 3 goes to get through the Swellies in a strong tide and NE gusty wind.”

So after stage one, all but the luckless Forty Somethings are continuing and the leaders will arrive in Whitehaven during the night.   Next for the runners is the longest and toughest stage, with the cycle to Ennerdale, the crossing of Black Sail Pass, and the ascent of Scafell Pike.  It is a stage which often shakes up the race positions, and will likely do so again.

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