Sedbergh Team completes Three Peaks Yacht Race

Words by Rob Howard (

Before the start off Barmouth, the forecast was for little or no wind, but off-shore forecasts can be wrong, and team ‘Roaring Forties’ in a J111 led across the start line in a 15 knot North-Westerly, just ahead of the Sedbergh School team on a Jeanneau Sunfast 360.

The school teams were in the non-competitive Challenge Class which allows engine use if needed, and for larger and more flexible teams.  The second Challenge entry was Shrewsbury School, on Simon Ridley’s Swan 45, and both had school staff sailing with them or joining them on the mountain running stages.

The prospect of 389 miles of offshore sailing up the West Coast to Fort William, and of running 55 miles (and cycling 40 miles) to reach the summits of the highest points in Wales, England and Scotland (Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis) didn’t daunt the young athletes. 

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Joe & Sam making good progress towards Scafell Pike

On each summit they ran together with the school staff, setting good times, and with the help of engine use through the tidal gates they stayed ahead of the race yachts (which had long periods of no wind or holding position against the tide).

On the hardest land stage, 40 miles of cycling and 12.5 miles of running to the summit of Scafell Pike in the Lake District, the young Sedbergh School runners beat the time of all the race teams, except the runners from team ‘Wild Spirit’, who are GB internationals.

When the school boats arrived at Corpach for the final run up Ben Nevis, the conditions on the summit were 30 mile per hour winds and a wind chill temperature of -5C, but there was no hesitation and both schools sent their runners up and down the highest peak in the UK and successfully completed the Challenge class.

The Sedbergh team sent all 6 of their pupils on the final run and at the finish the team leader, Oliver Barnes, said. “It was really important they all did the final leg together, and they’ve been a fantastic team.”

The chilly summit of Ben Nevis

Ashley Field, their skipper for the race said, “It’s been good to see their confidence grow as sailors day by day. They’ve learnt a lot and were doing what needed to be done without being asked pretty quickly.  They’ve not once complained, and have stood watches in the night and shared the cooking and cleaning between them.

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