Pies, Pints, Paperwork and Puddings
The remainder of the race boats came into the harbour at Barmouth this afternoon, with Baloo the last to come in on the afternoon tide. So the race fleet was complete, even if all the crews and runner had yet to arrive.
It’s a magnificent setting at the head of the estuary, spanned by the impressive railway bridge and overlooked by the mighty Cadair Idris. All the race boats are now moored out in the main channel and they use the habour ferry to go back and forward. Most completed the boat scrutineering today, and came into the yacht club office to register. (The runners will all go through their gear checks in the morning before the 11.00 race briefing.)
All of which left the evening free to socialise in the Merioneth Yacht Club bar. The club lays on an amazing spread of food for the competitors in the evening, and the bar has panoramic views out over the estuary. The food included a choice of several mains and then a huge array of delicious home-made puddings – enough to ensure the ferry will be weighed down on the return journeys tonight!
In the bar teams were meeting up, finding their support crews, and getting to know each other over a pint. Several of them were busy signing their race forms (known informally as ‘blood chits’) and Race Director Dave Bird was moving around the tables with some charts. It’s a very informal and friendly race!
Steve Hayes, skipper of the Irish team ‘Digital Built Consultants’ was in the bar with his delivery crewman, and they were waiting for the rest of the team to arrive, having come over on the ferry to Anglesey. This was a plan which caused some angst when the ferry was a little late and they could not collect the car they’d hired. (Hertz were happy to close up shop and leave anyone arriving on the ferry stranded without their hire car!) They’ll be in Barmouth later after a long taxi ride!
The team seem well prepared and when I spoke to Hayes he said, “We’re here to enjoy ourselves, but not just to make up the numbers. We want to be competitive if we can.”
“I’m really not sure when I heard about the race,” he said, “but when a neighbour who runs said he wanted a go and I got a more suitable boat it all came together.” He said they’d rigged up their oars, and motored through the Menai Strait to take a look. “So we know where we should go,” he added, “but that depends if wind and tide allow us to!” He’d looked at the option to around Anglesey as well if the tide is against them after the Snowdon run.
He continued; “We did start looking at timings and options but soon realised it was impossible to plan for this race! It’s so unusual as there is no course as such and in the end we just felt you have to do your best with whatever circumstances you’re in.”
This team don’t have a support crew, which means they will have the bikes onboard. “They are all broken down,” Hayes said, “and it will take an hour to put them together and to take them apart after the Lake District stage.
The Wild Spirit team were in the bar with their support team, and in the afternoon they’d mounted their ‘pedal power platform’ to drive a (very) small propeller. Stu Walker said, “The plan was to have a properly designed and engineered device, but the student doing the project was useless, so we’ve ended up with a Heath Robinson thing I put together myself!” The forecast is for very light winds for the first 48 hours of the race so it will be tried out.
They are conditions which won’t favour Wild Spirit, and the skipper, Paul Jackson, who is the most experienced race skipper here was tipping the Irish team to do well. “I think they have the right boat for the race this year,” he said.
Team Baloo was over in the corner of the bar in their bright red team shirts and there was a surprise for Rob Harnan when his two nieces presented hand-made cards and a bottle of champagne to celebrate his engagement last week.
Red seems to be the colour this year. Ajax have bright red shirts, and so too do the Gwyr Harlech team. Theirs all have the logo of the Brain Tumour Charity, which they are supporting. They were all filling in their paperwork at the bar, and I spoke to one of the runners, Ed Bailley. “We’ve done the Snowdon and Scafell Pike routes,” he told me. “Scafell Pike was hard. That was a long, long day and we were all very tired by the finish.”
Tomorrow morning teams will complete their paperwork and checks before the race briefing at 11.00 in the yacht club. Then they will leave the harbour at 16.00 to get ready for the offshore race start at 17.00.
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