New religion

In Australia Bruce Montgomery looks ahead to the annual Easter Three Peaks Yacht Race

Thursday April 13th 2006, Author: Bruce Montgomery, Location: Australasia
In Tasmania, the two main religious festivals at Christmas and Easter see the faithful heading to the chapel and the heathens to the water. Between Christmas and New Year, the Sydney-Hobart dominates the conversation outside the confessional. At Easter, it’s the Three Peaks Yacht Race.

Sydney yachtsman Martin Pryor was captivated by the concept of the British Three Peaks Yacht Race, which is held annually between the Welsh port of Barmouth and Fort William in Scotland.

In the British race, now in its 27th year, two members of each crew of five must climb the highest mountains in Wales, England and Scotland during the voyage - Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis.

In 1988 Pryor brought the concept to Australia, setting a course through the islands of Bass Strait to Mount Strzelecki on Flinders Island, then down the Tasmanian east coast to Coles Bay to climb Mount Freycinet and then to Hobart to scale Mount Wellington.
Tomorrow (Good Friday) at 2pm, 15 of the original 16 boats entered for this year’s race will leave the northern Tasmanian port of Beauty Point in the 18th running of the Australian Three Peaks Race. The fleet is a mix of purists (the five-crew brigade), fully-crewed boats and cruisers.

The casualty is Mike Rowley’s Planet X, which had engine problems on its delivery trip up the Tasmanian east coast from Hobart and, faced with a cold front between itself and the start line, it made the prudent decision to retire.

Fellow competitor Josh Ey has made a place available aboard his fully-crewed 12m yacht BSH Electrical Team Q to assist the Planet X team to gain experience in anticipation of a return for next year’s race.

The fleet includes the 10m NSW catamaran Alizé, which arrived in the Tamar River early Wednesday morning after having waited at Eden on the NSW coast for a weather window to cross the strait in between the cold fronts that have not only given the crews a pre-race shake-up, they have also kept the Tasmanian fishing fleet in port causing a shortage of fish for Easter. Well, that’s the story being peddled by the Hobart fishmongers, who are charging a bit more for their trevalla and flathead this Easter.

Favourite is last year’s winner Phillip Marshall’s Chamberlin 9 catamaran Marshall Engineering. It won in 2005 and was runner-up in 2002 and 2004.

This year’s fleet includes:
- Tristian Gourlay’s Adams 13 James Carey Floor Coverings from Sydney
- Tim Ferguson’s Dubois 30 Beach Inspector
- Wild West, a Rocket 31 sloop skippered by Tasmanian Michael Denny
- veteran Nick Edmunds from Sidmouth competing in his 18th Three Peaks race on his Radford 14, Tamar Marine Haphazard
- two Sydney-Hobart yachts, David Taylor’s Farr 37 Pippin and Julian Robinson’s Robinson 12 Apollonius

Given the clockwise course that the race takes from the Tasmanian north coast, out to the islands and then down to Hobart, the latest forecast promises a fast race initially and pretty hostile later in the weekend.

The Good Friday forecast is for west to north-west winds of 10-20 knots, possibly reaching 25 knots offshore. Seas one to two metres.

For Saturday the forecast is for south to south-west winds of 15-25 knots, reaching 30 knots offshore and seas to 2.5 metres.

The race starts at 1400 local time (0500 GMT).

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