The Three Peaks Yacht Race

  • UK (GBR)
  • Off-Road Running

Dido are the Winners

Rob Howard / 19.06.2013See All Event Posts Follow Event
The Dido team on the finish line
The Dido team on the finish line / © Rob Howard

In the pre-dawn gloom, with the lights of Fort William still shining, Dido motored almost silently into the pontoon by the Caledonian Canal Basin at Corpach, their runners standing on deck, ready to jump off and complete the race with the run up and down Ben Nevis.

Dido had lead for most of the race and had opened up a lead of nearly 2 hours on the nearest challenger, now White Clouds. Their runners, brothers Charles and Richard Hill, knew it was a secure lead, but Ben Nevis still had to be climbed before the race was won.  After they had set off their cousin, Dido’s Skipper Tom Hill, showed me his blistered hands and said they’d rowed all the way up Loch Linnhe to the finish, and 11 hours to get around the Mull of Kintyre!

“We had such an amazing variety of weather on the race,” he said, “from 30 knot winds to flat calms, but my advice to anyone who has thought about this race is that they must do it – it is an amazing experience.  I certainly got closer to the rocks of Bardsey Head than I ever wanted to, and if you asked me now I wouldn’t say I’d do it again, but that may change after a while.”

“We lead much of the way, but were passed by Nunatak near Islay when we hit a hole in the wind, but then they did the same and we played cat and mouse for a while. Later on we rowed closer inshore to Jura and the wind filled in, and we were able to use the spinnaker and opened up a lead again.”

“I’d advise anyone entering to be well prepared. We did a lot of prep and research, and put a lot of effort into engineering the set up for the oars, and without that we wouldn’t have won.  Our runners did all 3 routes in practice as well, and I guess it helps that we are family and know each other and have sailed together.”

Richard Hill said they had ‘claggy’ conditions on top, and they felt safe from being caught when they were half way down and saw the runners from White Clouds coming up. “They were moving amazingly fast,” he said, “but we had enough of a lead by then.”  He added, “My brother and I own a boat as well, and being sailors helped, so we were not seasick and I noticed our time on Snowdon was closer to the faster teams, who had suffered a bit on the rough first sail.  That gave us an edge I suppose.”

White Clouds had arrived in second place and their runners set a very fast time of 2 hours 59 minutes, with Shane Ohly collapsing on the finish line having given his all.  (They are still in contention for the King of the Mountains title.)  He confirmed what Hill had said, “We started Snowdon on wobbly legs and with empty stomachs, having been seasick. We’ve both sailed before, but nothing like that ... and nearly getting ship wrecked didn’t help!”

“We crashed into Caernarfon Bar and were on our side with the waves breaking over us and the boat was bounced up and down. Each time it landed there was a terrific noise and we felt sure it would break up, which is why the mayday went out and we were preparing the life raft.  Then we bounced into deeper water and righted thankfully. Mind you, at the time I’d been so seasick I almost felt getting ship wrecked would be a good way to get out of doing the rest of the race!”

At the time of writing only those two teams have finished, each receiving a small blue and white medal, the only physical reward for finishing this amazing race, which has no prize money, though all who take part have experiences and memories to last them a lifetime.

The race does have lots of trophies however, and the third boat to finish, Nunatak, have decided to go for the Tilman Trophy for all round performance.  Having been passed by White Clouds they opted for their runners to stay in Corpach, while the skipper Mike Jaques and crewman, Giles Waterhouse set off up Ben Nevis, so 4 of the team could reach a summit and secure the trophy named for the sailor and mountaineer who inspired the race.


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