The annual Three Peaks Yacht Race takes place from 17.00 on June 9th starting in Barmouth, where eight teams will gather to tackle one of the worlds oldest and most prestigious adventure races.
The race is now in its 41st year, and was inspired by the climbing and sailing exploits of Barmouth resident Major H.W. Tilman. The race takes combined teams of runners and sailors up the beautiful and treacherous West Coast to Fort William, with the runners going ashore along the way to scale the highest peaks in Wales, England and Scotland.
The sailing distance is around 389 miles and the hazards of the passage include sand bars, the passage of the rocky Menai Strait, numerous tidal gates, and shallow harbour entrances, and there is even a whirlpool to beware of! It is demanding coastal sailing to challenge any skipper and crew and the weather could be anything from gales to calms, during which teams man the oars. (This year the Wild Spirit team are planning on using pedal power as well as oars if it is calm.)
For the runners the challenge is to run up and down Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis from the coast. They will be on the mountains in the dark some of the time and will cover 72 miles of running and 14,000 feet of climbing, plus 26 miles of cycling in the Lake District. They may also have to row a yacht, learn to sail and cope with seasickness and a lack of sleep before they even set foot on land!
The race has attracted some of the most famous names in British sailing and mountain running in the past and is on the bucket list for any keen outdoor sportsman. It always attracts an entry from very mixed backgrounds and this year is no exception. The teams have a spirit of adventure and a determination to complete the famous 3 Peaks Yacht Race, but are of all ages and sporting backgrounds.
The age range this year is 65 to 24 and while some have completed the race before and will know what to expect, most are new to the race.
Three of the teams have opted for the new non-competitive ‘Challenge Class’ which is being piloted this year. They will still tackle the same route and the same peaks, but are allowed engine use if required and to be accompanied on the mountain stages. Most of the Challenge racers are new to the event, but retired GP Jim Seddon is returning to skipper ‘Peaky Finders’ in his Victoria 34. He last raced in 1995, and at the time vowed, “Never Again.”
This year’s teams include some very experienced 3 Peaks racers. The Skipper of the Jeanneau 40 ‘Wild Spirit’ is Paul Jackson, who has raced 3 times before and been on the winning boat, and he has once again team up with runner Stuart Walker, a former ‘King of the Mountains’ winner.
Also returning is Team Ajax, who won the prestigious ‘Tilman Cup’ for all round performance last year (by putting 4 of the team on a summit). The J109 is belongs to the Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club and their participation continues a long history of military teams taking part, often with great success. Only one of last year’s prize-winning team is racing this year (Alasdair Coombe) and the team have one of only two female racers taking part this year, Kirsty Chambers. (The other is Caroline Mattock on the Smithers Purslow team in the Challenge class.)
For the first in many years there is an all-Irish boat and team racing. Team Digital Built Consultants are racing in a Beneteau First 34.7 skippered by Steve Hayes and they are one of several teams raising money for charity (for a hospice which is local to them). Another fundraising team are Smithers Purslow, who all work the same building surveyors company which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. They aim to raise £40k for several over the year and their entry is part of that campaign.
The race this year is sponsored by Exposure Lights, makers of specialist outdoor, bike and marine lighting, and by Bruichladdich Malt Whisky. The race is also supported by Gwynedd Events and Barmouth Town Council.
During the race there will be live website updates with satellite tracking of the yachts and runners and daily photos and reports.
You can find out more about the race and the teams and follow the race live at www.threepeaksyachtrace.co.uk.