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Keep Carrying on in the Calm ... for now

Author : Rob Howard

PhotoCredit : Rob Howard

Date Posted : 2018/06/12

Team GSA head for Scafell Pike

It’s been a race with little wind so far, and if there has been wind it’s been northerlies.  All of which makes it gauling for the crews that the forecast is for the wind to swing round on Wednesday/Thursday ... but rising to storm force with 50mph gusts, which will provide difficulties of a different kind. They will go from calm to storm on the third leg of the race.

All the race boats bar GSA left Whitehaven this morning and are now closely grouped and moving at 3 to 4 knots across the Irish Sea towards the Mull of Galloway.  

Their runners (and riders) completed the longest land stage of the race overnight, riding out to
Black Sail Youth Hostel to leave their bikes, and then crossing Black Sail Pass before making the ascent of Scafell Pike.  The leading teams were on the peak in darkness but conditions were good and at this time of year it barely gets fully dark. They were met at the Wasdale Head Inn before and after the climb by a marshal team with refreshments and encouragement, and support crews could see them there, and on the ride. (That is if they had them.)

Des Tivnan and Ian Alcock from Digital Built Consultants were the first race team to head for Scafell Pike and they arrived with the bikes ready built and up on deck, as they don’t have a support crew.  Both had been “a bit queasy” but not sick, and they had eaten before arriving, so they set off straight away.  Jon Morgan off Wild Spirit wasn’t so lucky and took a little while to recover from sea sickness and set off an hour later with Stuart Walker.

They were beaten to the marshals kit check by the Ajax pair of Tony Dickinson and Kirsty Chambers who were very quick to move off.  This team are trying to complete the Tilman trophy, which requires 4 of the team to reach a summit, so it was a different pair from their Snowdon runners.  They won the trophy last year and are on course to defend it.

Both these pairs passed Gwyr Harlech who had come in earlier but took much, much longer to get sorted out.  (There is a big difference in approach in the checkpoints between the competitive teams and the Challengers.)  They had originally planned to send 4 up the mountain on this stage, but opted again for 3, and they had 3 bikes so all could do the full stage. They’re a spirited and determined team!

Once on the mountain the Wild Spirit runners were dominant with a fast time of 7 hours 39 minutes, despite the fact they knew the boat could not leave for several hours after they got back as it was low water.  Skipper Paul Jackson said, “We didn’t arrive in time to get in and out on one tide so settled for a good night’s sleep.”  He added with a smile, “The Irish runners are like whippets ... but we’ve got greyhounds!”  Before the boat left again he was making repairs to a tear in the mainsail, which will need to hold in the coming heavy weather.

Steve Hayes, the skipper of Digital Built Consultants was also sorting out his storm sails before leaving and said, “The light weather so far has suited us, but it will be better for Wild Spirit when the wind gets up.”   He looked a bit concerned about the forecast. 

With the runners showered and fed these two teams set off at 07.30 in the same lock-out as Smithers Purslow, whose walkers had taken 14 hours 27 minutes for Scafell Pike.  Ajax and Baloo followed about 90 minutes later and they were lucky to be able to leave straight away, though the runners might have preferred a rest and a shower after returning.

In the same lock Team GSA also arrived and they have now decided to drop down to the Challenge class as they are well behind the other race teams.  Like all the teams they have an eye to the coming bad weather and the question was asked whether Challenge teams could use the Crinnan Canal. This is described as the world’s most beautiful short-cut, and means teams can avoid the long sail around the Mull of Stranraer and the difficult tidal gates in the Sound of Jura.  Instead they can sail up the more sheltered Firth of Clyde and use the canal to emerge to the north of Jura.

The Challenge is a new event this year and a test event, and this was an option no-one had thought of!  After some discussion it was decided in the non-competitive spirit of the challenge that teams should be able to use the canal if they wanted to.  As much as anything it is common sense given the coming weather, and the Challenge teams and skippers seemed relieved at the ruling.

So now the race and challenge will split as they head North towards Ben Nevis, and into the stormy weather.

About The Author

Rob Howard
Rob is Editor of He's traveled the world reporting on and photographing adventure races and day-to-day he keeps his finger on the pulse of AR to ensure SleepMonsters is the heartbeat of the sport.

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