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The finish

The Three Peaks Yacht Race (3 PYR) – Army Offshore Racing Team
Skipper: Maj Will Naylor, CD CSS

The 3 Peaks Yacht race Team:
Maj Will Naylor REME (Skipper)
Maj Matt Sargent RA (Mate and runner)
Lt Col Andrew Britton RTR (Sailor and runner)
OCdt George Jorgenson SUOTC (Sailor and runner)
OCdt John Adeney SUOTC (Sailor and runner)
OCdt Dan Parker SUOTC (Support crew)
Gnr Tom Kingsbury RA (Support crew)

In June this year the Army Offshore Racing Team entered ‘British Soldier’ in the 3 Peaks Yacht Race. The race is one of the oldest and most remarkable extreme multi-sport endurance races in the world.  Each year this classic sporting event combining sailing, running and cycling, challenges intrepid teams to sail from the mid-Wales coastal resort of Barmouth, up the west coast of the UK, to finish in Fort William. On the way they will scale the highest peaks in Wales, England and Scotland. The race was conceived by Maj Bill Tillman RA, one of the greatest explorers of the 20th century. The race, a serious challenge for anyone, involves 400 nautical miles(nm) of sailing, 30 miles of cycling and 60 miles of running up the three highest mountains, Snowdon, Scafell and Ben Nevis. Additionally, the sailing sections of the race are navigated through some of the trickiest waters around the west coast and extreme conditions are usually encountered while running the mountain sections.

British Soldier is currently on a very busy programme, racing inshore, in the RORC races (including the Round Ireland and Round Britain and Ireland races) as well as in Scotland on the Scottish Island Peaks race and the Scottish series. We met her in Pwhelli to take over from the delivery crew and victual the yacht before a day sail to Barmouth before the race start.  We had to arrive on Friday 6 June by 1630 due to the tides and to arrive 24 hours before the race start for briefings and scrutinising.  A lot of planning and preparation had already happened so the team was raring to go. This race is one of the few races the crews are allowed to row in so rowlocks and oars needed fitting which was an interesting challenge for a racing yacht. Way out to start

After briefings and final preparations we were ready for the off and, at 1530 on Saturday 7 June, the fleet was led out of Barmouth by the RNLI lifeboat with most of the town waving and cheering from the shore. The winds were very light and after the start sequence we crossed the start line in first place…. Under oars! It wasn’t long before we got going properly in a light easterly wind and headed for Bardsey Island. The gap between the island seems very small but has plenty of room in reality, we still had the oars out just in case in the light winds though as the tide is strong in these waters. Once past the island (and some spinnaker sea fishing!) we turned for Caernarfon and had some difficult navigation but got in safely in the lead by half an hour at 0155hrs on Sun 7 June.

Passing Bardsey Island with the oars ready   John having a "post Snowdon" nap!
Passing Bardsey Island with oars ready   John having a "post Snowdon" nap!

It was now time for Matt Sargent and John Adeney to step off and begin the 23 mile run up Snowdon and back. Meanwhile the rest of the crew dropped the anchor and tired to get some rest before they got back. That rest proved to be a little longer as Matt and John got a little lost at the top in the cloud and ended up running a heroic 32 miles overall to get back! The support crew were also fantastic, giving the boat regular updates and meeting the runners with much needed food, drink and morale.  There was little time for rest though as we were off from Caernarfon to tackle the infamous Menai straits and on to Whitehaven. We left Caernarfon in 7th place but soon began hunting down the leaders. Navigation and tactics through the Menais are not easy – ferry gliding around large rocks certainly had the skipper’s eyes on stalks! We came out of the Menai Straits in 4th place and the wind began to pick up nicely, enabling British Soldier to really get going. We passed the Belgian yacht, Denebola doing a speedy 14kts and set or sights for Whitehaven whilst hunting the lead pack.Matt on the helm

The sail to Whitehaven was fast and fun. We went a long way west to maintain boat speed and anticipate the veering wind shift before gibing east and arriving in the sea lock at Whitehaven at 2100hrs in 2nd place behind White Rose. We had sailed the 110 nm leg over 90 mins quicker than anyone else and were only 15 mins off the record. It was now time for the lycra clad George Jorgenson and Andrew Britton to meet the support crew who had the bikes for the start of the Scafell Pike Leg.

George and Andrew starting the 40 miles Scafell Pike leg

The second land leg is by far the longest, at more than 40 miles, but the first and last 13 miles are cycled to and from Ennerdale Youth Hostel.  The ride is a tough climb on the way out and though it is mostly on road the final ride along Ennerdale is rough track, so choice of bike and tyre is tricky. We used road bikes with more robust tyres which worked well. Once the bikes were left at Ennerdale George and Andrew crossed Black Sail Pass into Wasdale before climbing up Scafell Pike across rough terrain at night before heading back to the bikes.  After so much climbing the downhill return on the bikes to the boat was very welcome. Meanwhile the rest of the crew were getting some rest and trying to patch the A2 spinnaker that had a 30 cm rip in it after our reach, gybe, wrap, trawl, hoist, reach experience! Any sailors reading this will understand! George and Andrew arrived back at the boat after nearly 10 hours of pushing themselves; a well earned sleep was the only thing they could think of as we set off on the 227nm leg towards Fort William.

We left Whitehaven in 2nd place on Monday morning, just over 3 hours behind the leaders and fell straight into a wind hole! Time for the oars again. Luckily so did everybody else but the wind began to fill and we were going well with the wind behind us to the first of many tidal gates, the Mull of Galloway. The boat was sailing fast and we passed the Mull with a strong fair tide doing 14kts over the ground. We then stayed inshore, hugging the land as the tide was turning and headed out for the Mull of Kintyre. Andrew and George had woken from their rest by now and were promptly given a sewing kit to re-sew the ripped spinnaker while we were sailing with the slightly smaller and heavier A4. We just made the gate at the Mull of Kintyre and catching White Rose fast. Yellow Brick Leader Board

We were doing over 5 kts faster and very nearly caught her at the Isle of Gigha but the wind died so the oars came out again. Having made the tidal gates with White Rose it was looking like a two horse race but the winds are very unpredictable in this area which kept us on our toes. We eventually caught White Rose south of Oban and went into the lead without getting caught in the infamous Gulf of Corryvreckan. It was nervous times towards the finish and the Corran narrows with fluky winds and foul tide proved to be an interesting challenge! We eventually arrived in Corpach lock in 1st place at 1921 hrs on Tues 10 June, just 3 minutes ahead of White Rose. With just Ben Nevis to complete Will Naylor and John Adeney (on his second mountain) stepped off on the 18 mile run to the top and back.

 

We quickly realised we weren’t going to beat the runners from White Rose who were simply awesome but pushed on for the second place and the Tillman Trophy (all crew must complete a mountain). We summitted just before dark and had a slippery run down to the finish. We eventually crossed the finish line at 0039hrs on 11 June and were met by the rest of the crew and the White Rose team which was a superb gesture. This was a fantastic achievement by all finishing second overall, winning the Tillman Trophy and winning the fastest sailing on each leg, the Services Trophy and IRC trophy. The support crew deserve a special mention too as without them the race would have been much harder and we would have not done as well as we did.

Racing White Rose at the Corran narrows

 

There was then time for a beer and a well earned sleep before the clean up and hand over to the delivery crew to take British Soldier to Ireland for the Round Ireland race. The 3 Peaks yacht Race can not be underestimated – it is hard and challenging in so many ways: organisation, fitness, navigation, tactics and teamwork are all required. Will we be back next year to win overall? Definitely!

Will and John crossing the finish line

 

Winners of the 3 Peaks Race 2014

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Offshore Racing Manager

Tim Hill Racing Manager for British Soldier

Lt Col Tim Hill
Tel: 01923 955337
Email: racing@sailarmy.co.uk