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

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Whisky Galore at the Last Inn

Rob Howard / 25.06.2021Live TrackingSee All Event Posts Follow Event
The Whisky Galore team on the finish line
The Whisky Galore team on the finish line / © Rob Howard

Charles Smallwood didn’t hold back when asked on the finish line what conditions on Ben Nevis were like.  “Horrendous!  It was blowing a gale and freezing up there.”  Asked how he felt, he just said, “Grim!”  However, he was smiling broadly at the time, clearly delighted that his team had completed the race and the Tilman Cup.

The 72 year old skipper of ‘Halflight’ had just completed the Ben Nevis run in 6 hours 54 minutes, so he had good reason to be weary, and he added, “Thank heavens I don’t have to do it again now!”  He had extra reason to be happy too, as he’d completed the run with his daughter Poppy, and the other runners aboard were his son Nick, and Poppy’s boyfriend, Ross. 

He congratulated the skipper of Tintin, who had clapped him over the line, saying, “Well done, you deserved to beat us.  Three of our crew are not really sailors and I think you worked harder than we did go get here. We were becalmed in Loch Linnhe last night so we anchored up and Poppy cooked some food for us all, then after we arrived we waited until 02.30 so we were on the top in daylight.”

His other sailor was Simon Crookenden (74).  “I managed to park the boat on a sandbar in the Menai Strait,” he said, “and it was near high tide so it took some time to get off and we had to get the oars out to prop the boat.  But the skipper was quite gracious and promptly grounded us the other side of the channel once we refloated so I wouldn’t feel too bad!”

Smallwood added that the though the right decision would probably have been to go around Anglesey as others did, and not through the straits.  However, that  is all water under the bridge now, as the family team have successfully finished the race!  Being a little later than they’d expected, there was little time to rest up as a couple of them had a train to catch home,  while the skipper wanted to quickly turn around and sail for Oban to catch the tide at Corran!

                                   The Halflight team on the finish line

The second Friday finishers were Whisky Galore, and their runners returned to Corpach at 11.19, with a Ben Nevis time of 4 hours 11 minutes.  Their team mates met them on the finish line and it was a good result for a ‘scratch’ team who hadn’t met each other before the race start!

James Allison summed up their race simply by saying, “We had an adventure!”

Their adventures continued right to the race end at the Corran Narrows.  “We got there and there wasn’t a breath of wind so we anchored,” said owner and skipper Charles Clarke. “We decided James might go ashore with a rope and we could kedge, so he stripped off to his underpants and we readied the dinghy.

“Then, out of nowhere, we suddenly we had a force 6 behind us, so we ditched that plan and tried to sail through.”  (This was the story for all the teams throughout the race as they experienced completely unpredictable and variable winds.)

He continued, “We couldn’t get through on the ebb tide under sail, so ended up looking for a place to anchor, only to be contacted by the Coast Guard!”

Allison continued the story, “The Coast Guard asked about our condition and said a member of the public had reported we were behaving in an ‘unseamanlike manner and an incompetent way!  We told the Coast Guard we were fine and were taking actions appropriate to continuing under sail, and it was when they realised we were in the 3 Peaks Yacht Race they were reassured!” 

The concerned member of the public didn’t know about a race in which boats might behave in an apparently eccentric way, but the Coast Guard understood!

When the tide turned Whisky Galore continued and on the finish line Allison reflected on the race. 

“There are so many moments and decisions, which have knock on affects later, and you get some right and some wrong.  Sometimes you need a bit of luck, like when we got a sudden breeze approaching Whitehaven and it allowed us to get into the lock.  Had that not happened we’d have been a tide later and might not be here now.”

As it turned out, those behind them were not going to make the finish at all.  Kokiri and Driac had to retire, and Sail Raisers and Trail Blazers had to use their engine and are now in the non-competitive Challenge Class. 

All of which means Whisky Galore has won the Last Inn trophy (given by a pub of the same name in Barmouth).

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