The Three Peaks Yacht Race 2016

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Sail4Cancer Lead Off a Slow Start

Rob Howard / 11.06.2016See All Event Posts Follow Event
The start of the 2016 3 Peaks Yacht Race
The start of the 2016 3 Peaks Yacht Race / © Rob Howard

With the flags hanging limp on the harbour side all morning and a stable and largely windless weather pattern there were no great expectations of a fast start to this year’s race and so it was to prove.

The yachts followed the lifeboat out to the start line, accompanied by a few yachts and fishing boats from Barmouth, the local celtic rowing teams and even an intrepid Stand Up Paddle boarder.  The slight breeze they felt in the harbour dropped in the minutes leading up to the start, which is about a mile out into Cardigan Bay, and very soon the oars were out!

There was some patchy wind, and some yachts managed to find it and opted not to row, including a few of the more experienced skippers and teams, Wight Rose, White Clouds and Moby J.  The Sail 4 Cancer crew rowed a little just to get into the best position for the start flare, with Dee Caffari on one of the oars, and they made the best start, gaining a lead quickly.  The oars were quickly put away, then got out again briefly, as they moved ahead.

Soon they were being shadowed by Aparito Digital Health, who were well back from the line at the start gun and had no oars out, but they had no need for them as they found enough wind to move up into second.  So as the fleet moved away from Barmouth it was the two female, professional skippers who lead the race – as you might expect.

Also well placed were the Go Ape crew and they were relying on the muscle power of rowing, and also the brain power of some clever forward planning for their rowing tactics. They have built a rowing platform off the back of their yacht, allowing one rower to use two oars, and to be much closer to the water to have a more effective stroke. It was working well and looked much better than the ‘gondolier style’ of the SUOTC team. Other teams had sliding seat rigs on their decks, which were better, but still high and difficult to generate much of a pull from on their long, heavy sweeps.

Also rowing well were ABF The Soldiers’ Charity in their small catamaran. Its lighter weight and size were an advantage, and they too were much lower to the water and using special sliding seats, taken from boats used by two of the team to row the Atlantic.

As the fleet headed off towards Abersoch and Bardsey Head, for what is likely to be a fairly long passage to Caernarfon, Team Excellence were left well behind. The 17m Bermudan Sloop is a lovely boat, and easily the biggest in the fleet, dwarfing the smaller entries, but it is one boat which will never be rowed! (The team did not even bring any oars with them realising the futility of the idea.)  As it is potentially the fastest in the race fleet too, it has the biggest handicap, so they are losing out there as well.  I don’t think the handicap is designed to be applied to rowing conditions!

Fortunately as the yachts moved off the wind did seem to pick up and they are currently making steady, but unspectacular progress towards Bardsey Head, where they need to get past a difficult adverse tide before pressing on to cross Caernarfon Bar (which is tide and draft dependent) and enter the Menai Strait. Once into the strait they will be able to motor to the pier to drop their runners off for the 26 mile Snowdon run.

You can follow the progress of the yachts and the runners on the mountains on the race live page at!2016-live-race-coverage/kg01l


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