Kugel Motion wins 3 Peaks Yacht Race
This year’s Barmouth to Fort William 3 Peaks Yacht was one of the closest and most competitive for many years, and one of the most successful, with all 12 entries arriving at the finish within 20 hours of each other.
All had undertaken one of the greatest amateur challenges in British sport, an endurance test of seamanship, mountain running and teamwork unlike any other.
They set off from the mid-Wales town of Barmouth in rough seas last Saturday (16 June) on a journey of 389 miles at sea, 27 miles on bikes and 72 miles of running, taking in the three highest summits of Wales, England and Scotland, a total of 14,500 feet of climbing.
Racing in teams of five (usually three crew and two mountain runners) the first port of call was the historic castle town of Caernarfon, where the runners undertook a 24 mile circuit, crossing the summit of Snowdon. They were racing against each other and against the tide, trying to get back to their boats in time to make the dangerous and rocky passage of the Menai Strait. Those who didn’t were many hours behind the leaders, and so were the team of Navy Cadets in the boat Thor who ran aground on sand bars off Anglesey. (The refloated and finished the race in seventh.)
The next stop was the Lake District port of Whitehaven, where teams cycled to Ennerdale, ran across Black Sail Pass, then up Scafell Pike, and all the way back again. Even for the fastest runners this was a non-stop seven and a half hour challenge and at this stage the leaders, a Reflex 38 named Kugel Motion had a lead of 12 hours – but the longest sail was yet to come.
This took them up the West coast, through the Inner Hebridean islands to Fort William and Ben Nevis, where the sailing is uniquely challenging, with difficult tides to negotiate and tactical navigational choices to make. By now the weather had changed – to glassy, calm seas with light winds at best and the race became a test of endurance, concentration ... and muscle power at the oars. Teams are allowed to row their yachts and it makes a significant difference, allowing them a little extra speed to push through against a tide or find a patch of wind.
For the next couple of days the teams engaged in an intense but slow race, and a race which had been stretched out was gradually squeezed together again by the numerous tidal gates holding up the leaders, and increasing winds pushing up the yachts at the back of the fleet.
The result was that all of the competitors arrived at the end of the Caledonian Canal within 20 hours of each other, and the leading six teams had runners on Ben Nevis at the same time. First back were the runners from Kugel Motion (Stuart Brameld and Alasdair Fraser), who had just held onto their lead to win the 35th running of this prestigious event.
The crew were David Ewing (skipper), Andy Holloway and Morgan Coe, and Hollway summed up their race; “That was terrible – really frustrating and no fun at all!” But he was smiling and laughing after his team’s victory. “We got trapped in a back eddy after rounding the Mull of Kintyre and lost hours there, knowing everyone was catching us up. There was nothing we could do, then we lost the wind and it was like a millpond – I’ve never seen such still water. It was so frustrating. Then at the end of the race we knew we’d get stopped by the tide at Corran Narrows and everyone else would catch us. It was so dispiriting when they did, we almost felt like giving up, but we didn’t and somehow we pulled it out to regain a lead – I don’t honestly know how we did it, but we did row quite a bit!”
Their winning time was 4 days 12 hours and 46 minutes.
Second place went to the Contessa 32, Quickstep, the second smallest boat in the race. They also won the Tilman Trophy for all round performance as the fastest team to put 4 out of 5 of the team on a mountain summit. Alex Haworth, a late addition to the crew, said more sailors should try this race. “I like it because it really rewards hard work,” he said. “I came in at 24 hours notice with no preconceptions and no idea of strategy, and it really is a brilliant team event. The run our girls put in on Snowdon was an amazing effort and set our race up
perfectly, putting us in the Menai Strait with the same four boats who finished close together this morning. It’s been nip and tuck all the way between us since then. The race is demanding as you have to meet certain tide and lock times and every decision impacts many others – it’s a never ending challenge. I was amazed how much difference the tidal rowing made too - that saved us a lot of time – it made a huge difference.”
The prize for the King of the Mountains (the fastest two runners on all 3 peaks combined) went to Tim Austin and Richard Mortiboys from the yacht We Love MCR. Their total running time was 14 hours 51 minutes – covering three marathon distance runs across the highest summits in the country in 4 days, with some rowing in between!