Three Peaks record falls
Lightning Reflex passed the Corran Lighthouse en route to Fort William
With a broken boom and torn sails the Reflex 38 Lightning Reflex has sailed into the record books and slashed the Helly Hansen Three Peaks Yacht Race record by 15 hours.
The Three Peaks Yacht Race is a classic event, this year celebrating its 25th anniversary, combining sailing and running up the three highest peaks in Wales (Mount Snowdon), England (Scafell Pike in the Lake District) and Scotland (Ben Nevis). The race started in Barmouth on the Welsh coast on 15 June and stopped at Caernarvon at the mouth of the Menai Straits where the runners were dropped off to go up the first mountain. Once this was done they then sailed through the Menai Straits up to Whitehaven from where the runner cycled to the foot of Scafell Pike. With the runner/cyclists back on board the boats sail up to Fort William where the runners are again disembarked to run up Ben Nevis and back down to the finish.
This year 17 yachts took part including two Reflex 38s - a far cry from the big 40-50 strong fleets of the 1980s, but since then the course have been changed (previously the boats were forced to dry out in Ravensglass, before the second stop was changed to Whitehaven) and multihulls have been banned.
Lightning Reflex arrived at Fort William at 2320 in a howling gale, but this didn't stop the runners setting off on the final running leg of the race, up Ben Nevis. Slowed down by the extremely poor visibility and terrible weather conditions, Aled Rees and Adrian Bailey finally crossed the finish line at 0347 on Tuesday 18 June 2002.
The team, Geoff West - skipper, Ken Fitzpatrick - navigator, Dave Jones, Aled Rees and Adrian Bailey, who were ranked favourites before the start of race, have expressed how tough the last 2 days, 14 hours and 22 minutes have been. "The conditions have been extremely enduring and we've all had to stay focused throughout the race. Thanks to Helly Hansen's protective clothing we've been able to stay warm, dry and enjoy the challenge. Breaking the record and coming home first is an added bonus."
"It's been windy all the time, which has in turn given us some exciting, but hard sailing", said Geoff West, owner and skipper of Lightening Reflex. "On leaving Whitehaven for the final sailing leg we encountered a Force 10. I've been out in a these conditions before, but this was the first time I'd chosen to go out into a Force 10, but it has paid off."
This was the second occasion Geoff West has entered his boat. In 2000 he was forced to retire after going agroun in the Menai Straits. This year he had some local knowledge on board in the form of co-skipper Ken Fitzpatrick, harbour master at Pwllheli. The third sailing member of their team was 23 year old Dave Jones, a former member of the Welsh Youth Sailing Squad and 420 class champion winner in Austria in 1996.