The PowerBar Three Peaks Yacht Race

  • UK (GBR)

Sailing through the Swellies

Rob Howard / 21.06.2009See All Event Posts Follow Event
Sunday morning may have been sunny over most of the country, but for the unlucky runners on Snowdon who faced constant rain and drizzle on a miserable morning. Some of the runners were more miserable than others, struggling with the long road runs, their partners carrying both packs. The two Helly Hansen runners used a towing bungee between them. This is a common practice in adventure racing, but not often seen in this race, and allows the stronger of the pair of runners to assist the weaker.

At the sharp end of the race the leading teams are all really close together, and this promises to be a great competition in the coming days. Quickest by only a few minutes were GFT Adventure in 3.29, and that was despite them both taking a fall and returning with some cuts and bruises. They are still fine to carry on though. Behind them both EADS and Topsham Toe in the Water set a time of 3.35, while the runners off Penmaenmawr SC came in at 3.37 – it couldn’t be much closer.

GFT got away first, if it could be said any of the returning boats ‘got away’. With no wind and the strong tide against they were going nowhere slowly. Slow progress was possible with the oars out and the Spinnaker up, but it was painfully slow and everyone was waiting for the tide to ease so they could force a way through.

It wasn’t until after noon that GFT were the first to get to the Britannia Bridge and enter the section known as The Swellies, between the Britannia and the old Menai Bridge, built by Telford. This is the most treacherous stretch, with numerous submerges rocks, fierce and shifting tides and small islands, and passage when the tide is turning, especially with no wind, is the biggest concern for the skippers in this race. Boats have run aground often before, and races won and lost here.

Fortunately, today there have no reports of groundings (though we don’t have contact with the boats at the back of the race), but there were plenty of ‘tense moments’ as the sails filled and dropped and progress against the tide was only possible with the assistance of oars. Runners and crew took turns as none could row for too long. Even Penmaenmawr SC, the 50 footer, was rowed under the Telford bridge – not a sight you see every day!

GFT managed to keep their lead and be first out of the Swellies at 1pm, followed by Nunatak and Topsham Toe in the Water, but the chasing fleet were not far behind and with the light (or no) winds set to continue positions are likely to change before arrival at Whitehaven on Monday.

At the back of the race both Sail Ezra and Driac were called and asked to take their own times on Snowdon as the marshals can’t stay – they have to work on Monday! Both are continuing in the race, but may not arrive until Monday morning, by which time they will be almost a day behind the leaders.

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