The PowerBar Three Peaks Yacht Race

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The Chase

Rob Howard / 23.06.2010See All Event Posts Follow Event
On and Up rowing to Scotland
On and Up rowing to Scotland
Since EADS passed through the lock gate at Whitehaven and left with a lead of several hours, the chase has been on. With insufficient wind to make progress against the fierce West coast tides the leaders knew they could be held in position at any time and caught by the chasing pack.

They hugged the southern bays of the Mull of Galloway to progress slowly and the chasers (Whistler, Dockers, GFT, Topsham Sea Fever and Kishinoor) all drew closer but EADS somehow still managed to keep a slim lead. The same thing happened going around the Mull of Kintyre ... and in the Sound of Jura and at the tidal gates to the North of Jura ... the challengers have closed the distance, but not quite caught the persistent and illusive EADS.

Team Torbellino came very close rounding the Mull of Kintyre, but then dropped back, and The Dockers tried the tactic of going through the Sound of Islay and around the West side of Jura. This seems to have paid off.

During the night the group of boats in the Sound of Jura split, with EADS, Whistler and Sea Fever winning a significant lead and being joined by The Dockers. If this group maintain their lead through the Firth of Lorn they then have to pass through the Corran Narrows, which lead them into the home stretch on Loch Linnhe. Again they could be stopped by the tide here, waiting for their pursuers to catch up, or they could get through on a tide and open a bigger lead. The skippers will be calculating time, speed and tide in their heads almost continuously as they plot the best course.

I had hoped to get a boat out into the Sound of Jura to find the teams and talk to them, but that hasn’t worked out, so we can only guess what the decisive factor was during the night. The crew on EADS have sailed the race course many times and that experience will count as they make hundreds of decisions along the way. They will be deciding whether stay inshore out of the tide, look for wind further out, row towards a patch of breeze signalled by a slight disturbance on the water as well as adjusting sail and plotting a course to avoid hazards, yet still find a way to progress against the tide. Any one decision may not be crucial on its own, but getting more of them right than wrong may push a team through a tide and make all the difference. It’s that experience that EADS will be using to try and keep their lead.

They also have the lighter boat and it is likely teams are rowing for significant periods of time. In this race the runners may finish with more blisters on their hands than on their feet. How the team rotates the rowing duties, and how much the runners can help with the sailing will all count and teamwork will be more and more important as exhaustion from lack of sleep sets in. This has been a long race, even for the leaders, and crews will have had little sleep.

All the leaders will also be thinking ahead to Ben Nevis, and races have been decided on the final run before. Of the 3 current leaders EADS and the Dockers have the fastest runners, and should they be close on Ben Nevis it will be quite a race as they seem evenly matched. GFT Adventure are the other leading runners and they will know they can chase down the runners from Topsham Sea Fever, Torbellino or Kishinoor if they arrive in Fort William not too far behind them.

It may be a slow race this year, but it is one of the most competitive for many years, and even this close to the finish there is no telling who is going to win the major trophies.

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