A broken ankle, lost cyclists and a retirement made for an action-packed Three Peaks Race last night

With the exception of ‘Maid Marion’, which retired at Caernarfon after going aground, all of the fleet made faster than expected progress to Whitehaven in the Lake District last night. However, the second mountain stage of the race proved tough.

Happy sailors came ashore in the impressive marina at Whitehaven. Sailing conditions had been good and the pre-race forecast wrong! So much so, that the support crew for ‘Spirit of Barmouth’, who had been expecting to have 24 hours to get to Whitehaven were surprised when they got a phone call telling them the boat was 2 hours from port. Still two hours drive away, they had the bikes needed for the first leg of the Scafell Pike stage. They made it with minutes to spare.

There had been some competitive sailing in the night with spinnakers flying much of the time. ‘Hellefix’ and ‘Ryde Harriers YC’ came in to Whitehaven just after midnight on Monday morning, and one of the best performances came from ‘Jacana’, who moved up through the fleet to arrive in 4th place. ‘Freedom’ were pleased to have passed ‘Mew Gull’ as there is strong rivalry due to both the yachts being Westerly Fulmars.

Ahead of the arriving teams was the most testing of all the mountain stages, the long cycle ride and run to Scafell Pike and back. The 15-mile ride includes a lot of climbing, in both directions, and once competitors switch to running they have to cross Black Sail pass from Ennerdale into Wasdale, before setting foot on Scafell Pike. All teams are asked for estimated timings but almost without exception they underestimate how long it will take, and how much it will take out of them!

The exception this time was ‘Xchanging’. This boat lost ground during the sail as skipper Hamish Coop didn’t think it wise to fly a spinnaker at night with only two experienced crew onboard. Once ashore Jonathan Bradshaw and Martin Wilcock set about regaining the lost places. They took only 2 hours 20 minutes on the run up and down Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head, and their total time of 9 hours 20 minutes moved them from 8th on arrival to 4th on departure.

‘Ryde Harriers YC’ had a very different experience. Setting off in third position they got lost for hours and hours on the cycle ride. It wasn’t clear exactly what had happened but this disorientation was a sign of problems to come. After getting back on track they had a quick run on the mountain but it was only after they’d returned to Whitehaven and set sail again that the extent of Dave Downer’s dehydration became apparent.

With a rough night’s sailing ahead, beating around the Mull of Galloway, they wisely turned back to Whitehaven hoping to allow him time to recover before setting off again. In the end though, after much discussion they withdrew, desperately disappointed, as they’d been very competitive. However, they are planning to come back in 2004 and try again.

For the naval boat ‘Hedonist’ Scafell Pike was also to prove their undoing, in the most dramatic way. David Boorer and Sue Wandsworth were running comfortably, and well on their way to winning one of the many Races prizes ‘King’s of the Mountains’ when they reached the summit of Scafell Pike. Conditions and visibility were good, but they came off the summit, which is a mass of boulders, the wrong way and Boorer’s descent down a scree gully turned into a fall which broke his ankle. He was in a position where Wandsworth couldn’t safely get down to him but fortunately had a phone and could ring for help.

In a very short time sirens echoed across Wasdale as the local mountain rescue team swung into action with impressive efficiency. They quickly put a large team on the mountain, with stretchers and medics and confirmed a broken and dislocated ankle, which necessitated Boorer helicopter evacuation to a local hospital. Rescue teams confirmed he was fortunate not to fall further, but the first ever rescue call out on the race was very effectively dealt with.