Team Aparito have finally all sat down at the same table less than 24hrs before the start of the three peaks race. We are all a bunch of very busy women – our team captain Elin Haf Davies, has her profile in ‘Wired’ magazine today , Jo Jackson has flown halfway round the world – but we have put our lives on hold to spend the next five days together competing in the epic Three Peaks Yacht Race.
The common link that runs through our team is our Captain Elin, we were hand-picked by her at the beginning of the year, and yesterday was the very first time we all actually physically sat down in the same place and talked racing. I have sailed with Elin once in 2012, but we have been rubbing shoulders at sailing events since then, always saying we should sail together again and finally we have the chance.
The Three Peaks Yacht Race flies oddly under the radar of sailing events in the UK, having competed in the event before I don’t understand why; the sailing is about as challenging as it gets and we will take in some of the most spectacular coast line Britain has to offer.
This year there are 17 teams competing some newbies, some old hands and the last couple of days the water taxi’s have been kept busy ferrying, people kit and tools out to boats moored in the middle of the river for last minute preparations.
Most attention this year seems to be on the rowing rigs; the Three Peaks Yacht Race one of only two races in the UK where the competitors are allowed to row the boats if the wish (the other is 2 handed round Britain and Ireland – also epic) and at the beginning of this week the forecast was so bad I was trying to work out how long it would take to row the entire race.
The race starts today at 1400 and you can find our tracker here. We will sail from Barmouth, to Caenarfon, over the bar following the tiny channel probably in the dark, sailing all the way into the river until we are allowed engines on at the Mussel bank buoy. We then must motor to the Caenarfon pier where we are briefly allowed alongside to deposit the runners who must then summit Snowden – in the dark.
Sailors may anchor in the vicinity of the pier to catch up on a small amount of sleep of prepare for the next leg. When the runners are back we will be picking them up and charging up the Menai straits to try and make it through the Swellies before the tide locks up out. Meanwhile runners should be straight into sleeping bags as short leg to Whitehaven will be their shortest recovery time for the whole race.
The two navigational challenges of the Swellies and Caernafon bar are not to be taken lightly, competitors regularly hit the bar and with the tide peaking at 8 or 9 knots through the Swellies, and channels between rocks that narrow to 100m in places, this is no ordinary place to race.
I need big thanks to Charlie and John at Plas Menai who very kindly set me up with some expert local knowledge about navigating this stretch – Though this is my second time in this race and I have done it before, I have a healthy respect for this stretch of water and local knowledge is everything.
In our first sit down yesterday we really seemed to gel as a team – it didn’t feel like anyone was vying to be on top, we are all focussed on making our best performance in this race and there is a great amount of mutual respect across the team, the list of accomplishments that sits behind each member of our team is equally impressive, we have taken on oceans, deserts and the artic in every manner you can imagine, and we all just come back for more. Check out my previous blog to read about the accomplishments of our team. We do have one man on the team, our shore crew Chris who will be matching our progress up the coast, providing support to our runners at each of the stops and allowing us to swap gear, load on extra food if we need it and make any repairs while the runners are ashore. This morning we will meet our on board camera woman, who we are carrying for the duration of the race, to film for a documentary which will be shown on channel 4 and SC4 later in the year.
There is no wind out in the river right now; the tide is sloshing past the hull of the boat and the surface of the water is silky smooth. If you were wondering I calculated once moving we could row our J120 Nunatak at around 2.5 knots so estimated the course time under oars would be around six days…. But let’s hope it doesn’t get to that.