The Three Peaks Yacht Race 2016

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Late and Locked Out!

Rob Howard / 13.06.2016See All Event Posts Follow Event
Coming into Whitehaven through the Sea Lock
Coming into Whitehaven through the Sea Lock / © Rob Howard

It was a tense Monday morning all round at the Three Peaks Yacht Race.  The fleet was struggling to find patches of wind on the passage to Whitehaven, moving slowly in fits and starts, and rowing frequently.

All the while the teams knew they were racing a deadline at the lock gate at Whitehaven which is tidal, so at low water the sea lock is closed and they can’t get into port to put their runners ashore. (They are not allowed to put them ashore outside the lock for safety reasons.)

While the teams laboured at the oars their support crews and all their friends and family avidly following the internet tracking were biting their nails.  Would their team make it or not?

Very gradually Pure Attitude and SUOTC pulled out a lead approaching Whitehaven and at 09.37 the riders from Pure Attitude were the first to set off towards Ennerdale and onto Wasdale and Scafell Pike.  Ahead of them lies the longest land stage of the race – the cycle ride out to Black Sail Youth Hostel, and then the crossing of Black Sail Pass into Wasdale. From Wasdale they climb Scafell Pike to the summit, then reverse the route back to the boat.

George MacDonald and Jack Bush of Pure Attitude told the marshals they expected to take 10 hours before getting back to them. “We’re the amateur team with attitude,” said Macdonald, “and that give-it-a-go attitude will carry us through.” The pair were riding touring bikes with ‘puncture proof’ tyres, risking taking them on the rough forest track to Black Sail for the extra speed on the longer sections of road riding.  Others will ride slower mountain bikes rather risk a mechanical failure or puncture – it is a tough choice what to ride.

The crew on Pure Attitude were clearly delighted to be in first, but not too sure how it had happened! “We pretty much took a straight line and somehow got here first,” was their only explanation. “We rowed a lot of course, too much, it seems endless,” said John Klintworth. “Those rowing seats are not my friend!”  When I asked if he had sailed anything like this before he just said, “No, I don’t think there is anything like this ... it’s a bloody funny race route for a yacht race!”

The team had at one time thought they might not make it while the lock gate was open. George Jorgensen, skipper on the SUOTC boat had been more optimistic. “I thought at one time we’d be in by 6.00 am then the wind dropped totally and it took far longer so we are just glad to be here at all – we had to row a lot!”  They don’t have rowing seats and stand to row, gondolier style, but it seems to work. “We thought it was strange, but when we tested it out it worked well!”  He added, “I’m just delighted to be here – for 5 students to get a team and the finance together to race has been hard and we’ve applied for grants and whatever help we could get.”

Their runners too expect to take 10 hours on the Scafell stage and the runners from Aparito who came in 3rd said 9 hours. They all have a long day ahead of them and the weather is still not being kind. It is pouring with rain in Whitehaven so conditions on the mountains will most likely be wet and some good navigation may be needed if cloud is low. (Finding the right path coming off Scafell Pike is notoriously tricky.)

The other 3 yachts to make it in all have very experienced skippers and faster runners. Wight Rose was next in and Alex Pilkington just said the ‘sail’ was “tedious”. Both he and fellow runner Pavel Paloncy had been taking their turn rowing but had banked plenty of sleep on the long sail.  (Wight Rose can be rowed steadily at 2 knots with the team taking turns.) In contrast to the earlier arrivals they expected to take 6 hours on the stage, and on form they are likely to be the first back. Just after 11am the last two boats to squeeze in through the lock were Moby J (race leader on the first stage), and White Clouds.

Those arriving later will have to anchor in the outer harbour and wait for higher water and won’t come in until much later this afternoon (when depends on their draught) and that will further handicap their runners, who will be out on the mountain run in the dark.

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