Magellan Three Peaks Yacht Race

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Row, Row, Row Your Boat ...

Rob / 25.06.2003See All Event Posts Follow Event
Hellefix in the Sound of Jura
Hellefix in the Sound of Jura
“There is a force 4 to 5 coming from the South-East�, was the message shouted across to the crews of the two lead boats from the motor launch Farsain at dusk on Tuesday, but the promised wind never came, and throughout Wednesday morning all the yachts struggled to make any headway towards Fort William.

This final sailing stage can be frustrating for those watching and following the race too, as there is little or no news on the position of the boats, and they can be hard to find among the islands. After motoring down the western shore of Jura, Farsain found ‘Spirit of Barmouth’ tucked very close in-shore to Islay, trying to escape the adverse tide which would quickly have swept them back down the Sound of Islay had they not been rowing hard.

They had taken the decision to try and get through, rather than continue up the Sound of Jura. The tactic of going ‘outside’ Jura has been tried before, but never succeeded, so it was a risky choice. They felt they had enough breeze and tide to get through and could find better conditions further out, as within the Sound of Jura the winds are notoriously fickle. Once through they would also not have to pass the tidal gate at the far end of the Sound of Jura.

But the breeze they needed dropped and now they were in a battle to get out, away from the tide, and hoping desperately for some breeze beyond the headland they were creeping, oh-so-slowly towards. Any respite in their rowing and they’d be swept back, but they are all old hands at this race and know the big part rowing can play. They have long, light oars and were taking it in turns to keep up the rowing, and moving forward laboriously, metre by metre.

Despite feeling down, fearing they’d made the wrong choice, they kept going and quite suddenly broke free of the tide and could raise the oars with some relief. This was the point their gamble might succeed or fail. There was a breeze, only a faint one, but they were sailing again.

Adrift

But how much distance had they lost to the chasing Hellefix which had been an hour behind them and had gone straight up the Sound of Jura? If Hellefix had found some wind they could be further North and their choice had one big advantage, the tide would turn with them and push them forward, much more strongly than it would ‘Spirit of Barmouth’.

When Farsain found them, static on a mill pond sea, they’d not made much progress though, and had made one huge tactical error – they’d off-loaded the oars at Whitehaven. Not appreciating the vital role they can play to move the yacht between patches of wind or against the tide they thought they would get in the way! They knew better now. “We left something important behind,� shouted Jack Kamminga.

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