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Ian Loffhagen's F-25C wins the Three Peaks

RORC's Deputy Racing Manager Ian Loffhagen's 'Shiek Yerbouti' won the 2004 Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race overall for an unprecedented third time this year. Sailing against stiff competition from previous winners of the race Ian's F-25C, the second smallest boat in a fleet of 50 starters, beat a 36ft trimaran and a 50ft monohull to take line honours and overall victory by three and a half hours .

'Shiek Yerbouti'

Ian writes:

The Scottish Peaks Race is a fantastic combination hill running/sailing race. The sailing course of 160 nautical miles includes the strong tides and overfalls of the Corryvreckan and the Mull of Kintyre whilst the runners cover an amazing 60 miles and 11,500ft of climbing. Each team comprising of three sailors and two fell runners to enjoy what must be some of the best sailing and hill running in the world.

Joining us on the race were top fell runners Mark Hartell and Alex Johnson. Mark was in my winning team in 97 and 99 but Alex was competing for the first time. They were complimented by a sailing team of Spencer Harrison (regular crew and owner of the popular Cricketers pub in Southampton) and Dave Scully (watch leader on Steve Fossett's maxi-cat Cheyenne and holder of the around the world record). Dave joined the team at the last minute (when Helena Darvelid was forced to withdraw) and really enjoyed the unique character of the race.


The team had been hoping to break the race record but high pressure made it a light airs race. Because the race is not sailed under Racing Rules of Sailing teams are allowed to propel the boat by any human powered means when the wind dies. Sheik Yerbouti was fitted with a human powered 'outboard' and two carbon oars courtesy of the Shakespeare Rowing Club in Stratford on Avon. The crew developed a love hate relationship with this gear; it proved a wonderful way of 'getting out of jail free' but with a lot of calms it became physically very draining.

The race started at 1200 on Friday 21 May with a six mile run around Oban. The runners were rowed out to the waiting yachts by dinghy and the sailing race started with a light airs beat; Sheik Yerbouti was in the group that led out of Oban Bay. As the fleet reached the sound of Mull the breeze kicked in and Sheik Yerbouti soon romped into the lead doing 13-15 knots hard on the wind. The competition were amazed at the performance of the boat; in their words it "disappeared in a ball of spray".

Arriving at Salen the runners are rowed ashore and proceed to the top of Ben Moore before returning to their yachts. Sheik Yerbouti left Salen with a 20-minute lead and gybed back down the Sound of Mull under asymmetric. The big tactical decision of the race is whether to go east or west of Jura. Going west is 10 miles longer but going east involves getting through the tidal gate of Fladda and past the notorious whirlpool of Corryvreckan. The problem is that the tidal gate is always shutting as one arrives in a dying evening breeze. We opted to go east and held the breeze until well into the Sound of Jura. Predictably the breeze went light and the night was spent wind hunting and rowing. Behind us we could see a nav light of what we thought was Humpty Dumpty the Farrier F-36 tri. We were wrong it was the big mono Playing FTSE the Beneteau 47.7. When we arrived at Craighouse we were amazed to find the F-36 already there and were convinced they had gone west of Jura. It turned out they had gone east but managed to get past us (while having a "problem" with their nav lights) by hugging the Jura shore and getting some down drafts from the hills.

Tom McCluskey's Farrier F-36 being rowed

We had dropped Mark and Alex for the run up the Paps of Jura some 30 minutes behind the F-36 Humpty Dumpty but they ran a blinder and took 20 minutes out of the competition in a three and a half hour run. Leaving Craighouse we were only 10 minutes behind the F-36 and being early morning there was of course no wind. There was nothing else for it we had to row across the Sound of Jura to the Kintyre peninsula in search of wind. We soon caught Humpty Dumpty (who were trying to row a much heavier boat with only two oars) and rowed away from them to the isles of Gigha. Sure enough some cumulus cloud bubbled up over Kintyre and binoculars showed that the wind turbines were starting to move. It was a long light airs downwind sail down to the infamous Mull of Kintyre but we weren't having to row and the opposition became specks in the distance and were out of sight by the time we rounded the corner.

Alex on the hill

The really hard part

One of the amazing things about racing on the west coast of Scotland is the microcosmic weather; it changes at every headland. When we rounded the Mull the breeze kicked in and we had a fantastic spinnaker leg with speeds in the high teens all the way to Sanda Island on the south east tip of Arran. It was looking good for dinner in the pub while the runners went up Goat Fell but the wind switched off and we rowed and sailed in zephyrs finally arriving at Lamlash at 2245, too late for dinner but in time for a pint.

Dave Scully pedaling

Mark and Alex had a tough time going up the mountain in the dark having expended so much energy rowing and pedalling on the way to Arran. On their return we crept out of Lamlash under sail but found the Clyde windless. We set to on the oars and pedals again and were determined to row all the way to Troon if necessary. A light breeze filled in half way across so we able to sail to the finish. Mark and Alex were totally spent and slept all the way. We finished at 0743 on Sunday morning, the F-36 Humpty Dumpty finished 3 hrs and 28 mins later and Playing FTSE the Beneteau 47.7 took third place.

Elated we were met by the shore crew clutching champagne; we had done it and won by a good margin, as for the record - it would be so good to beat it in a 25' boat, maybe next time

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