The 40th Three Peaks Yacht Race

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A White Wash in Whitehaven

Rob Howard / 19.06.2017See All Event Posts Follow Event
Phil Scarf and Alistair Morris leave for Scafell Pike
Phil Scarf and Alistair Morris leave for Scafell Pike / © Rob Howard

It was a slow, sometimes windless sail to Whitehaven for the 3 Peaks Yacht Race fleet and it wasn’t until just after 11.00 on Monday morning that the lead boat made it into the marina –  in fact at the time of writing White Cloud is the only competitive race boat inside the Marina.

Getting in and out of Whitehaven is a critical point in the race as it has a tidal lock gate, which is closed to the yachts at low tide (exactly when depends on their keel depth).  With low tide approaching at the same time as the two lead boats (White Cloud and Wight Rose) it was touch and go.  White Cloud arrived first and made it in, Wight Rose just missed out and ended up aground in the outer harbour, but critically they had finished the sailing leg before doing so.

The runners from White Cloud, Alistair Morris and Phil Scarf set off at 11.19 and gave an estimated time of 8 hours for this second mountain leg, which comprises a ride to the Black Sail Youth Hostel and then a run to Scafell Pike and back (crossing another mountain pass on the way).  It is the longest and toughest mountain stage, but familiar ground to these two runners, who have a fine summer’s day for the stage.

I asked Morris how much rowing they’d done and he said, “Not too much – we prefer to call it jelly fish splatting!  There were loads of them!” He was riding a cyclo-cross bike and tyres and told me he’d done the same last year with no punctures.  As the other teams come in there will be a variety of bike and tyre choices as most of the cycle is on road, but there is an extended section on rough and rocky forest track.

The crew told me they’d managed to keep moving most of the time. “We found some wind most of the time,” said John Donnelly.  “It was a judgement whether it was worth rowing for an extra half knot and didn’t seem worth it.” 

“Around 4am we thought we were never going to make it all,” said Nicholas Donnelly. “The sea was glassy with that oily look, but we found more wind this morning.”

“We went further out form the Rhumb line and found more a bit more wind I think.” said John. “Wight Rose followed us for a while but then went back in.” 

Reflecting on their break away in the Swellies yesterday he added, “We were surprised it worked going so close to the island, but there was a bit of back eddy behind it to get some momentum and the tide there was not as strong as it looked. After we broke through we managed to keep sailing forward then and get out of the Strait.”

Wight Rose is stuck on a mud back in the outer harbour, laying on its side 100m from the lock gate and waiting for the tide. White Cloud only just had enough water to get in, but when Wight Rose gave it a try they’d missed the opportunity by minutes. 

They have finished the sail leg however as they’d crossed the transit line at 11.10, and with two fast runners could still win the second leg trophy and are effectively only a few minutes behind in the race. (The time between finishing the sail and starting the run is dead time so they are not losing any race time while they are stuck.) 

Moby J has also finished the sail (at 12.24) and is anchored offshore, waiting for the tide, and for other race boats to arrive.

[For those watching the trackers you’ll see First Edition was first to arrive, however this is a non-competitive boat and they used their engine to get to Whitehaven.]

Times from Snowdon

The first leg of the race (sail under handicap + Snowdon run) was won by Moby J with a combined time of 13 hours and 4 minutes.  Quickest on the mountain were Alex Pilkington & Pavel Paloncy from Wight Rose in 4 hours and 4 minutes, and the fastest sail was by Hare Hill in a corrected time of 8 hours 11 minutes.

Sadly Balloo retired after the first leg due to damage sustained when grounding on Caernarfon Bar.

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