For once, I took the nice camera with me, so I've decided that my 3 Peaks blog will involve minimal words and lots of photos.
I have raced this race a couple of times before, but this time was part of a new team. Wild Spirit is our skipper Paul Jackson's boat, but due to logistics we were racing on a chartered boat from Ireland (Sherkin II), under the team name Wild Spirit. Sailing with Paul we had Tom and John, and Wil Spain and I would be the runners. Thanks to Wil for stepping in at the last minute when Hugh Aggleton's injury became too serious to race.
The final member of our team was Judith, who would be our shore support crew and would bring the bikes round to Whitehaven. All the hard work without the fun bits - thank you Judith!
|Saturday lunchtime - the adoring crowds gather...|
|...the Wild Spirit crew (l-r John, me, Wil, Tom, Paul) is ready...|
|...by 1 o'clock everyone else is ready and the race is about to start...|
|John down below at the Nav table|
|The first launch of our spinnaker - "Mr. Happy"|
Then, just as we were about ready, the whole boat shook and juddered to a halt. We were aground on Caernarfon Bar. It was dark but we could see two other boats who were also stuck in the same place. Simon Berry and the Ultimate Direction team on Mistral were on one side, and another team on the other side of us. They were only a few metres from us, and as we all jiggled around in the dark the spiky bits of our boats got very close!
Eventually the sailors managed to get us off the bar an we continued to the fuel pontoon at Caernarfon, leaving Mistral stuck for a while longer. Off we jumped to start the first running leg.
The Snowdon leg is 39km long, with about 12km on the road each side of the mountain leg. Neither Wil nor I are road runners, but we did OK and made it to the hill intact. We pressed on up the hill and felt good, getting to the top (as usual) at the same time as loads of national 3-Peakers.
|Wil on Snowdon|
|Wil running back into Caernarfon|
|Classic Snowdon selfie|
|Time for breakfast in the sunny Menai Straits|
|Mr. Happy was sometimes helpful...|
|...but sometimes we just had to row...|
|Creeping through with Aurora, just before going aground|
Out came the inflatable tender. And the pump. But no pipe... We weren't feeling lucky! With a pipe fashioned from a bit of tubing and two milkshake bottles we managed to get some air into the tender. Looking decidedly floppy we put it in the water and Tom bravely (and tentatively) got in. We passed him the 20kg anchor, expecting the whole lot to sink, but it didn't, and the bizarre little arrangement made its way out to 20m or so off our port side. He dropped the anchor and rowed back, confusing another tender-user in the process!
|Tom (left), now without anchor|
|Joined by Dolphins in the Irish Sea|
|Hard work for sailors!|
|(although suitable for climbing the mast to free some stuck bits)|
|"You're doing half a knot!" (note professionally-designed rowing seats)|
Our sailing time from Caernarfon to Whitehaven was actually the slowest of all at 1 day 14 hours 32 minutes, but everyone was slowed down this year by the diversion around the construction of the Walney wind farm. As we approached we were called on the radio by an angry-sounding guard boat and asked to change course. Other boats behind us seemed not to hear the radio message till quite late, but they too eventually changed course. The construction itself was quite impressive, we had a good view of the cable laying vessel and the accomodation platform.
|Walney cable laying vessel|
|Tom turned into a Gangsta|
|Wil decided to use the boat as a climbing frame to stretch bits of himself|
But eventually, as Monday evening arrived, we started to get closer to Whitehaven and everyone calmed down. Wil and I prepared ourselves for the second runner's leg, and the sailors got ready for some food and sleep (or so they say - I know there's a Wetherspoons nearby)
|A fishing boat off Whitehaven|
|Here we Cumbria!|
|Leaving the bikes at Black Sail|
|And off we go!|
After the up, down, up, down, up, down run, we were back on our bikes for the ride back to Whitehaven. There's basically one climb, then it's a great fun and speedy route back down to the marina. First though, we had to get down the rocky track to Ennerdale. Our bike light batteries had not charged properly on the boat for some reason, so we were both relying on Wil's little headtorches. We had one each strapped to our handlebars, but the one Wil was using committed suicide over one particularly big rock, so he resorted to using his spare spare torch held in his mouth for the final section. We were glad to get to the road!
The ride down was as much fun as I remembered, about 20 minutes out we phoned to sailors (and woke them up - it seemed our "8 to 8:30" message had not been as clear as it might've been - I meant number of hours, they read time of day) and we made it to the marina in time to grab a quick shower before getting into the lock gate for the first opening.
|In the lock with Hare and Hill to our left|
|Desperately trying to remember how to be vaguely useful as a sailor!|
|Castle near Port Patrick|
|John on the helm|
For the first time, the weather turned a little cold and wet, and we were now beginning to worry that this race was taking a long time. We needed to be into Fort William by Thursday afternoon at the very latest, as Paul was taking the boat back to Ireland with a new crew, and the maths was starting to look a little dodgy...
|Paul and Tom having a row|
|Our little bit of Jura|
|Starting to show signs of wear!|
As we progressed towards the famous Corryvreckan whirlpool (caused by a 219m deep hole in the seabed), conditions had become a lot more interesting and we were all on deck working hard to keep the boat going where we wanted. Corryvreckan is hard to describe if you've not been. It's actually a much larger area than I realised; we passed through the outflow from the main whirlpool but it was still very impressive to see how the power of the sea pushes boats around. It's easy to see how so much folklore built up around it and how mariners were so scared of it in the past.
|Corryvreckan (Photo: Clyde Cruises)|
After the excitement of Corryvreckan, the next challenges were Lismore and Loch Linhe. More slow careful sailing and rowing between patches of wind...
|Approaching the narrows, before the big effort...|
Now we were pretty much there, it was time to think about the final running section on Ben Nevis. Tom had agreed to join me so I packed our kit (some of which Wil had kindly left us for Tom to use). Finally, we crossed the line and were allowed to turn the engine on for the final time: Surely the race was in the bag now!
We pulled onto the Corpach fuel pontoon and Tom and I jumped off. There were lots of marshals, Judith, and my Mum and Dad waiting to cheer us in. After a quick kit check and information about the revised route through Fort William we were off! Embarrassingly I missed the first bridge, but once back on track we made our way out through the Fort William, up to the industrial estate and eventually to the Ben Nevis Inn where we joined the track up the hill.
|Looking back towards the boat from halfway up the Ben|
|Well done Tom.|
|The team at the end (Photo: Rob Howard / Sleepmonsters)|
I think Tom deserves a big shout for being a sailor and a runner in the same race - and for basically not sleeping. Thanks to John for being the expert navigator and being patient with me as I tried to remember my little sailing knowledge, to Wil for two really fun runs, and to Paul for being a great skipper!
Thanks again to Judith for support crewing, and to my Mum and Dad for coming up to Fort William for the finish, and giving me a lift home.