The Three Peaks Yacht Race

  • UK (GBR)
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Fast Times and Close Competition at Caernarfon

Rob Howard / 15.06.2013See All Event Posts Follow Event
Shane Ohly gets back aboard White Clouds
Shane Ohly gets back aboard White Clouds / © Rob Howard

The strong South Westerly winds are making this one of the fastest starts to a race for several years, with the leading teams having completed the first leg and set off through the Menai Strait before daylight on Sunday morning.

On the sail to Caernarfon Dido, which the biggest boat at 46 feet, and the J120 Nunatak, exchanged the lead many times, arriving at Caernarfon at 21.16 and 21.18 to set their runners off up Snowdon.  (Dido’s time of 7 hours 16 minutes was not too far off the record of 6.52, set in 1991.) 

Questar had also been well placed but was held up crossing the shallow waters on Caernarfon bar at the entrance to the Menai Strait, having the deepest keel of all the competitors at 7’7”.  (They were arriving close to low water.) White Clouds had even more problems on the bar, broaching and calling out the inshore lifeboat, but in the end they didn’t need any assistance and were able to arrive in third place and continue the race.

Fourth to arrive were 1RTR (For 1st Royal Tank Regiment), leading in a group of 5 teams all arriving within 7 minutes of each other in what is developing into a close and very competitive race.  One boat losing a lot of time at Caernarfon was Fire Dancer as the skipper David Reynolds struggled to come alongside the pier in the strong tide to let his runners off.  After a few failed attempts they anchored, then tried again with the dinghy alongside with the runners in, a very risky manoeuvre, which was successful after a couple of attempts.  To add insult to injury while they were anchored Henry Reynolds, who is racing against his father, dropped his runners off to overtake his Dad in the race ... on Father’s Day too!

Most of the runners coming ashore said it had been a good sail, though a few had been sick, and one off White Cloud had a head gash after from their grounding. Andrew Holland from Westholme Warriors had been particularly sick and was very glad to be ashore.  He was clutching a large tub of pasta and spent a while with the support crew trying to eat something and rehydrate before setting off up Snowdon.  

While the leaders all set off to do fast times, not everyone was in such a hurry.  The runners off of Sea Camels said, “We think we’ll take about 6 hours, but it depends if Pete’s Eats in Llanberis is open early for breakfast!” The pair off of Intrepid Misfits also said they were going to take their time. “The skipper does not want us back until 12.30,” said Jason MacVaugh, “so we are under no pressure.” This is so they can make the tricky passage of the Menai Strait with the optimum tide.

The leaders didn’t have this luxury when their runners returned – all setting off to make the passage in darkness.  The pair from Dido were first back, at 01.47, with a lead of 20 minutes over Nunatak, who were in turn 7 minutes ahead of the runners from White Cloud. Next back were the runners from Moby J, who overtook two teams on the mountain to move their team up to 4th place.  All had set fast times, running the 26 miles in the dark and it looks like a very close race for the King of the Mountains title is underway.

The fast times on Snowdon gave their crews a better chance to get through the Strait before the tide turned, which involves sailing through the rocky area of ‘The Swellies’, between the two Menai Bridges in the dark. This is a treacherous passage at the best of times and with 11 knots of wind and the tide taking then towards it in the dark it was time for stout hearts, clear thinking and precision sailing from the skippers and crews.  Those who get through without mishap or damage know they will open up a big lead on the chasing boats who will be held by the turning tide.

You can follow the progress of the yachts with the race trackers at and send messages of support to the teams via the SleepMonsters leaderboard;

[Driac have contacted the Coast Guard to say they are stopping in Abersoch to rest before resuming the race. They will be a long way behind the rest of the race fleet.]


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