The Three Peaks Yacht Race 2016

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The Adventure Seekers

Rob Howard / 10.06.2016See All Event Posts Follow Event
Dee Caffari
Dee Caffari

“... the lure of the only race in the world which combines everything, from sailing to rowing, to difficult pilotage, to road and fell running, to cycling, to utter exhaustion, that just cannot be resisted.”

Those are the words of 69 year old Martin Pound, skipper of Moby J and a serial Three Peaks Yacht Race competitor, who is back once again to compete this year.  It’s a good description of this very unique ‘adventure race’, which has now been going for 39 years and continues to draw together competitors with a sporting spirit of adventure from around the world and across the sporting spectrum.

Just as the race defies categorisation, so too do those who come to take part.  There are many very experienced sailors and skippers in the race of course, many of them having done the race before. Their journeys have spanned the world’s oceans and the most renowned offshore races in the global calendar, and this year one of the UK’s most successful and best known sailors is taking part.  

Dee Caffari is a professional sailor who has raced round the world 5 times, including the Vendee Globe and her navigator is Libby Greenhalgh, who is the meteorologist to the British Olympic Sailing team. When they arrived at the compact clubhouse of the Merioneth Yacht Club in Barmouth someone said, “Here come the professionals!” Their reply was, “No, we’re 3 peaks virgins!”  It’s a good reply, as for all their experience the tidal gates and west coast sailing will be new experiences for them and there is always much to learn at this race.

The two are racing for ‘Sail 4 Cancer’ on a Reflex 38 (which has won the race several times), though this year IRC handicaps on the sailing legs may make it less competitive (we shall see). The owner Geoff West has won the race more times than anyone else, and is competing in his X99, sailing as ‘Wight Rose’. (Which has also won the race before – as long ago as 1999.)

Another professional sailor is Pip Hare on ‘Aparito Digital Health’ (the only all female team) and she is one of 8 skippers who have raced before, including another overall winner John Donnelly on White Cloud ix.  Hare rates the race as one of the two best British Yacht races (with the 2 handed Round Britain Race) ...  but this race is about far more than just sailing and handicaps.

It is when you add in the running and cycling, the rowing in calm weather, and the complex tactics all those factors generate that you get an adventure cocktail that is very special. The crews need to accommodate non-sailing athletes and the runners have to cope with the sailing, and they all have to gel as a team (living in a very small space for a week). All have to cope with whatever may occur, grounding on a sandbank or rock, engine failure coming into port, injury or bad sea sickness, punctures and of course the ever variable weather on the Atlantic west coast.

Which is perhaps why their experience is so varied – an adventurous spirit and determination are really the only ‘qualifications’ for this race.  So it’s no surprise that 4 competitors have rowed the Atlantic and/or Indian Oceans, one has dived on the titanic and sledded to the pole, others are veterans of every kind of endurance run or race in the world, several are climbers and mountaineers, triathletes, and a few have just done so many 3 peaks races they’ve learnt the hard way what to expect and how to cope with the unexpected.

Among the runners there are some experienced adventure racers, including Alex Pilkington who was one of the winners of the ‘King of the Mountains’ title last year and is once again on Geoff West’s boat – it’s just a different boat.  This time he is running with the prolific Czech endurance racer Pavel Paloncy, who has never sailed before (or met any of the sailors), and who recently ran the Cape Wrath Ultra, a 400km, 8 day run starting at Fort William ... now he will racing to finish back where he so recently started!

The yachts are as varied as the teams on them and with the introduction of handicaps for the sailing legs it is anyone’s guess how this year’s race will turn out. The only thing for certain is that the next week will be a memorable adventure for all – which is exactly why this varied and accomplished group of sailors and athletes have come for this special race! 

You can follow the race and the live YB Satellite tracking at http://www.threepeaksyachtrace.co.uk/#!2016-live-race-coverage/kg01l 

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