Sailing: Ludlow bows out at the summit

One man's 15-year obsession came to an ecstatic end in the Three Peaks Yacht Race.

WHEN RICHARD LUDLOW reached the top of Ben Nevis with his running partner David Hawkins, he knew that after 15 years of trying he was finally going to win the Helly Hansen Three Peaks Yacht Race.

From the patchy snowfields of the summit he looked down 4,406 feet to the placid waters of Loch Linnhe to see a slow-moving yacht approaching, and knew the two runners aboard would not now be able to catch him before he could return to his own boat, already moored on the shore below.

It was a painful jog back down on severely blistered feet, but half-way he passed the two runners from the recently arrived Spirit of Daedalus making their way upwards, and soon after that he crossed the finish line to celebrate with the three sailors who made up the rest of the team from the yacht Tactix.

In 89 hours and 53 minutes of non-stop racing they had sailed 389 miles from the Welsh coastal resort of Barmouth, only stopping at Caernarfon and Ravenglass to let the runners ashore to scale Snowdon and Scafell Pike, the highest points in Wales and England. Then came the long sail up to Fort William, and the final, victorious, climb, completing 72 miles of running and 11,000 feet of climbing. When they got back to the yacht from the summit the race was won.

"I'm ecstatic," Ludlow said. "In seven attempts at the race since 1984 I've won trophies as the best runner, for the fastest sailing legs and for the best all-round team performance, and once lost the outright title by an agonising two minutes. Now, at last, I've won and I'm not coming back. I retire!"

It had been a hard-won victory in a race where more than half the yachts setting off from Barmouth had been forced to give up. Yachts of all kinds compete on equal terms in this unique race, but the Morecambe Bay Prawner, Sir George Pilkington, built in 1900, found the high winds too much and broke its mast soon after crossing the start-line.

The winds increased in strength on the sail to Caernarfon and the newly- built catamaran Wildwood damaged its dagger board in the mountainous seas rounding Bardsey Head. They later retired with a failed engine and stress cracks to the mast beam.

Last year's winners, a fire service team on Parhelion, blew out all their sails, and were forced to motor to avoid running aground, while several boats put into port to sit out the weather.

Conditions for the runners on Snowdon were just as bad. Seasick and shaky, but delighted to be on land again, they faced a 24-mile night-time run in lashing rain and winds which at times blew them off their feet. First on the mountain were Menzies MacAffer and Nick Erlean, with the Navy entry Spirit of Daedalus. Members of the Royal Marines biathlon team, they had been invited to run as late replacements only three days before the race, but neither had been yachting before or been on any of the three peaks. Even so, they ran the fastest time in 4hr 16min and went on to win the title of Kings of the Mountains for the best combined time on the three runs.

Tactix, a lightweight X99 owned and skippered by Geoff West, set a new fastest time between Caernarfon and Ravenglass, while Spirit of Daedalus was not far behind. With force eight gales continuing to blow, negotiating the narrow entrance to the estuary at Ravenglass was difficult and dangerous, and Stormwave, which was in third place, was blown aground on the rocky beaches to the south.

"The wind was forcing us over on to the beach, lifting our propeller out of the water, and when the engine failed we were helpless," skipper Julian Wells said. As the waves pounded the stricken yacht (which was eventually salvaged), the inshore lifeboat tried and failed to pull them clear, while the coastguard ran a safety line out to allow runners and crew to wade ashore.

Cold and wet, Wells said: "To lose a boat is the worst thing that can happen to a skipper. We are all completely gutted."

While the rescue took place, other yachts entered the harbour and rowed their runners ashore for the next 32-mile run. For the leaders this came only 12 seasick hours after the Snowdon run, and to get to and from the mountain was a marathon distance on its own.

After Ravenglass, Tactix and Spirit of Daedalus were often in sight of each other, but the weather changed, and in flat, calm conditions the crews, who had virtually no sleep for three days, took to the oars and rowed northwards.

Approaching the finish, Tactix, which was the lighter boat, and was carrying four oars, put in all they had left to row through the night.

"It was extremely tense on board," Ludlow said. "We knew the Marines would be much quicker than us on Ben Nevis and we needed a big enough lead to ensure we would not be overtaken. After all the storms and tactical battle on the way, it was those few hours rowing that made all the difference."

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn