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39th Three Peaks Yacht Race

by Sophie Bubb 16 Jun 2016 17:08 BST 11-16 June 2016

At 1041 on the 15th June Lowrie Morgan and Jo Jackson from Team Aparito Digital Health crossed the finish line to ensure the team became the first ever all female team to take line honours in the thirty nine year history of the Three Peaks Yacht Race. The girls crossed the finish line at Corpach Sea Lock hand in hand and into the embrace of their delighted team mates. After a prolonged hug it was time to open the champagne and celebrate a great sporting achievement and when Skipper, Pip Hare was asked what had made a difference she answered without hesitation. "Teamwork! We have absolutely been there for each other all the time, all working together as a team. We'd never met or done anything together before, and Lowrie only saw the boat on the Friday before the race, but from the start we've worked hard together and it's been a fantastic experience."

Lowrie Morgan said, "It's been fantastic being part of a team. I mainly do individual challenges and events and it's been nice not being on my own; it's been a real privilege racing with this team." Jo Jackson added, "I think this race is a good event for women to compete on equal terms. Women can sail equally as well as men and in ultra-events often have more endurance. It's been a great experience for me to be a part of this as the 'amateur' on the team."

Offshore sailor Nikki Curwen and ocean rower & sailor Elin Haf Davies completed the girls team onboard their J120 and both promised to come back again and might even take on the Tillman Trophy, where 4 of the 5 crew have to run at least one of the mountains. There was clearly an extra spring in the step of these girls knowing they had lead home ocean sailing legend Dee Caffari and her recent Volvo Ocean Race crewmate Libby Greenhalgh, who were racing the Reflex 38 Sail 4 Cancer.

The second team across the line at this year's race and the overall winners were Pure Attitude and they came in at a sprint! Jack Bush and George McDonald raced down the newly re-laid towpath, even dipping across the line, then doubling over to catch their breath. The runners had clearly given everything and McDonald said, "We didn't want to push too hard, too early, but by the end just had to give it all we had to beat the girls."

The team has been the surprise package of the race and their third leg sail put them in contention for the win. Martin Grey, who owns the team's X37 said of their runners "It was interesting having some non-sailors aboard! The boys had tremendous enthusiasm, but no idea what we were talking about!" He added, "The boat's been good and went well in the light winds near the start, but it's not so good to row! Fergus McDonald the skipper and John Klintworth completed the winning crew and were clearly overjoyed at their slightly unexpected success.

At the time of finishing the Pure Attitude team didn't know if their adjusted time under the IRC handicap system had bettered that set by Aparito but after the numbers had been crunched they discovered to their delight that their adjusted time of 3 days 23 hours 29 minutes was 39 minutes quicker than Aparito's and moved them to the top of the podium.

Third to finish was the X99 Wight Rose, whose runners Alex Pilkington and Pavel Paloncy have been simply stunning and smashed the King of the Mountains title for the best overall time on the 3 peaks (they set a time of 3.52 on Snowdon, 6.25 on the Scafell Pike stage, and with 3.30 on Ben Nevis posted a total time of 13 hours 47 minutes which won't be beaten now but the team didn't quite do enough to jump above of Pure Attitude or Team Aparito Digital Health overall, with a tough final upwind sail up Loch Linnhe leaving them too much to do on the run. At the time of writing they look good for third overall, with no slower boats close behind. Skipper Geoff West was at pains to highlight that in fact he was one of three skippers onboard and that they had all got along famously, celebrating their finish with a bottle sponsors Bruichladdich whiskey.

Further down the fleet the predominantly light winds and numerous tidal gates dealt both the Southampton University OTC team and the Dee Caffari lead Sail 4 Cancer team some pretty harsh cards and whilst both had their chances to make a bid for overall victory, it was not to be this year. Both teams finished as night fell on what had been a hugely eventful day for all competitors. The student team were however over the moon to win the famous Tillman Trophy which was their main objective and many regard to be the Blue Riband trophy of the race. The SUOTC skipper George Jorgensen said, "It's all gone as well as we could have hoped, I came to race 2 years ago and came back this time better prepared and I'm sure we will come again some time!"

While the SUOTC team were celebrating the runners from Sail4Cancer came across the line and afterwards Dee Caffari was full of enthusiasm for the race and all the new experiences it's given her and the team. "This race had everything!" she said, We had too little wind and too much wind, the team rowed, ran and cycled, there was down wind and upwind sailing and we navigated into some places where I was glad it was daylight! I wouldn't want to be in the Menai Strait in the dark! On this last leg we made 71 tacks... we counted them! There is no other race like it. At the start everyone had their oars out so I thought we'd better do the same and from then we were rookies learning as we went. Everyone told me you do well by making the least mistakes and we made one early off Bardsey Head and put that down to inexperience as we watched everyone go close inshore and pass us! Now we are thinking of everything we could do better and before we even got to the finish line we were having the conversation about coming back for another go. I can see why this race is addictive. It's a crazy, nautical adventure, and it's about much, much more than just sailing.

White Clouds were next to finish and although there have been several retirements towards the back of the fleet due to various reasons, at the time of writing, Go Ape, Team Toot Toot, Sea Camels, Life in Motion and 'If not now When' are still battling on and approaching the finish.

Later this year the race will be the subject of two television documentaries. Three of the participating boats had onboard cameramen capturing the action as it happened. These programs will be broadcast on the Welsh channel CS4, Channel 4 and across Sky Sports channels, so the full story can be seen then.

About the race

Celebrating 39 years this year the race is ranked amongst the 10 most difficult endurance races in the World alongside the Marathon des Sables and the New Zealand Coast to Coast.

It involves teams of 5, sailing from Barmouth to Caernarfon in Wales where two of the team must run to the top of Snowdon and back. The team must then sail to Whitehaven in Cumbria, where again two of the team must cycle and run to the Summit of Scafell Pike. Finally the teams sail to Scotland where the final challenge is to run to the top of Ben Nevis and back.

In total the team must sail 389 miles, climb 11,176ft run 72 miles and cycle 72 miles.

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