Getting There in a Roundabout Way
Author : Rob Howard
PhotoCredit : Rob Howard
For the first time ever in the history of the race, all of the competing boats opted not make the passage of the Menai Strait yesterday, and instead took the longer route by going around the Isle of Anglesey.
This followed a hot run up and down Mount Snowdon for their athletes, on a day when the mountain was packed with walkers and tourists. The timing of their runs ensured they were out in the hottest part of the day, and there a few sunburned faces and arms on their return to Caernarfon. Stu Walker was one of these and he said, “the doctor told me to put on cream, and I didn’t!” (His running partner Jon Morgan is a doctor).
The pair had set off behind three other pairs on the run, but passed them all to give White Spirit a lead starting the second leg, Their time of 4 hours 16 minutes was the fastest by far (Baloo were next quickest in 5.15), and some ofthe pairs who followed them into the checkpoint looked very, very weary.
When I asked Wild Spirit skipper Paul Jackson what he thought of the conditions for the Menai Strait, he said, “We’re not going that way. There is so little wind we don’t think we’ll make enough progress before the tide turns, so we are going around the island to try and find more wind. It might not work, but that is what we are going to try.”
And they did, and they set a trend because everyone else followed them. Digital Built Consultants had watched their rivals set off and while they waiting for their runners I called to ask which way they were going. “We’re just talking about it,” said Steve Hayes. “It’s a tough call.” They were clearly not sure but after a very tired pair of runners returned they followed Wild Spirit. They are faster on the water so perhaps thought it was a safer tactic to stick with them rather than take a risk grounding in the Strait.
Ajax and Baloo did the same, and so too did GSA, who had arrived at Caernarfon after everyone else had left and had some cooler conditions to run. Once the handicap is applied it’s Baloo who won the first stage, and with their low IRC rating they know they can be some distance behind their rivals and still win the race.
So, this year it was only the 3 Challenge boats who passed through the Menai Strait. Both Smithers Purslow and Peaky Finders parked side-by-side on a sand bar for a while, and when the water came up they were joined by Gwyr Harlech so all could pass through under engine power.
The same three were the first to reach Whitehaven on Monday morning as the dead calm conditions prevailed until dawn. Their runners would rather they’d continued because when the wind got up the sea conditions turned to short, choppy waves and they had an uncomfortable morning.
When Smithers Purslow arrived in Whitehaven it took them well over an hour for the runners to recover from seasickness and leave for their ride, and the runners off Peaky Finders also said they’d been very sick.
At the time of writing those are the only two boats into Whitehaven and Gwyr Harlech is anchored outside waiting for enough water to get through the tidal lock gate into the Marina. Race leaders Digital Built Consultants may come through with them or be close behind as they have opened up a good lead over Wild Spirit and Ajax. However, they know Wild Spirit have the quicker runners (which could get them out of the marina a tide earlier), and Baloo have the better handicap so it’s still a highly competitive race.
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