Race Report by Paul Jackson, Skipper of Wild Spirit
Before the race all skippers turned their attention to the weather forecast and the worrying lack of wind. But then, just before the start the question was whether to reef or not as the wind increased.
The fleet split just after crossing the line with some tacking North to take the gap in the bar with just one more tack whilst others hoped that with just a small wind shift they would make it through and onto Bardsey.
The 2nd fastest boat on handicap was Wild Spirit and they arrived at Bardsey sound just ahead of Roaring Forties, the fastest. Faced by a combination of adverse tides and fickle light airs the 2 challenge boats carrying Shrewsbury and Sedbergh School teams motored through. Close inshore Roaring Forties caught the counter current and made it through into new wind whilst Wild Spirit rowed into the wrong eddy and spent several hours recovering lost ground. Baloo used their experience to do well on their Sigma 33, whilst Osprey Meadow with experienced, race wining skipper, Geoff West, followed Roaring Forties into Caernarfon where the runners disembark for the Snowdon run.
Two boats just missed the tidal gate at Caernarfon bar whilst the Dutch team, Food for Flow, just made it in time.
The first runners down from Snowdon were from Roaring Forties and in light winds Conwy based skipper Chris opted to go through the Menai straits, half an hour behind Wild Spirit followed; both were to encounter setbacks with Roaring Forties being aground for a couple of hours whilst Wild Spirit just failed to clear the top of Puffin Island as the tide turned, and so anchored for 5 hours, including oversleeping for half an hour.
Two teams went round the outside of Anglesey, but still had only light wind so progressed slowly. In 2018 the race was won by a team that went this route, but in 2022 it proved the wrong tactic.
The forecast for the run up to Whitehaven was for very light wind, far too light, but as so often it was wrong and several teams made good progress north with Roaring Forties the first race boat in. Wild Spirit and Osprey Meadows arrived close together, but both missed the lock gate levels so had to anchor off and incur ‘Dead time’.
The runners on Osprey Meadows and Wild Spirit were the fastest, but the school teams also put in very good times.
Roaring Forties runners were first back down the hill and caught the tide in time to leave the lock with only 28 minutes dead time, Baloo and Osprey Meadows suffered over 4 hours and Wild Spirit, before setting off for the last 227 miles to Corpach. Time that was to cost them dearly.
Roaring Forties maintained their lead position despite adverse tides at the Mull of Kintyre, but Wild Spirit and Osprey Meadows had a close battle all the way up to Corpach. Initially, with different tactics in the Irish Sea, Osprey Meadows pulled ahead, but by the time they reached the Sound of Luing they were neck and neck with the lead changing hands many times.
Osprey Meadows took the mainland side coming through the sound then went across to Scarba to catch an Eddy whilst Wild Spirit went into the mouth of Correyvechan and emerged into the sound again at over 10 kts to claw the lead back. For the rest of the race they were close together with the lead alternating. Wild Spirit made it through the final tidal gate of Corran Narrows just ahead of Osprey Meadows and clung on to finish just 20metres ahead at the line, though Osprey Meadows won that leg due to a slightly lower handicap.
As the runners from Osprey Meadows and Wild Spirit set off up the mountain the school teams in the challenge were already back in with their skippers taking a well-earned rest. Wild Spirit’s runners posted a really fast time to beat Osprey Meadows and claim ‘King of the Mountains’,but overall Osprey Meadows won the race on handicap (IRC) with Wild Spirit 2nd and, line honours winner, Roaring Forties in 3rd.
Now the winds dropped again and the back of the fleet struggled in with the Dutch first timers finishing a very creditable 4th on handicap and Seas the Life, with its 80 year old skipper John, coming 5th on the heavy Hanse 458.
Not the fastest 3 Peaks Yacht Race, but challenging and as ever great fun.