Last tack at Barmouth, next stop Caernarfon.

Adventures Before The Start - Barmouth 24th June 2000

Just reaching Barmouth is not easy, especially in severe weather, and even before the race has begun there have been a few withdrawals and some excitement.

Winds to storm force 7 battered the incoming yachts during the week and the Barmouth lifeboat was called out twice. On Thursday 23rd the fire service crew on Parhelion were in difficulties with engine failure, and then on Friday the Navy team on Stormcruiser were unable to bring down the sail, and they too needed the help of the lifeboat.

It turned out there was major damage to the mast housing, such that the mast had shifted several inches forward, which was why the halyard was stuck fast. The crew spent 12 hours in rough seas trying to sort out the problem, but in the end had to call for assistance. Stormcruiser were 2nd last year and one of the favourites this time, but they are out of the race.

Three other yachts never even made it to the start. Steve MacDonaldís disabled team had a catalogue of problems and in the end decided not to come, but Steve has vowed to get to the start line next year. Both Woodbird and Beef on the Bone set off, but ended up storm-bound. The team on Beef on the Bone were one of the most experienced entered, several of them having set the race record a few years ago, so another strong team are out.

Woodbird did get as far as Caernarfon, and even had the cheek to ask if they could start from there, but they got the predictable answer. However, they planned to leave the boat up in Scotland for the summer cruising season, so will probably join as a non-competing team.

Everyone has gone to great efforts to make the start and there have been a few crews ringing round to find last minute replacements. Team Reflex (who won last year as team Tactix) have replaced David Hawkins with Brendan Bolland, who may not be such a good rower, but is one of the countries top mountain endurance runners.

Angus Ryan, one of the 2 South African runners on Sunsail IRPS, flew over especially for the race, only arriving 2 days ago. The same boat only made it as far as a rock in the Menai Strait last year, but are determined to go all the way this time.

The support crews have been working hard too, none more so than the team with the Scout Fellowship group, The Exiles, on the yacht Leopard Clipper. They have a big support team and a trailer with a strange craft on, now called The Toast Rack - a sort of catamaran with hoops. The support crew are lead by Alan Rand, who grew up at Lymington, where all Tilmanís boats were fitted out. As a lad he remembers going to Tilman's talks, watching the spotty black and white films and the talk given by the quiet, gruff man with the square jaw. This is one of several yachts with members of the same family aboard, brother and sister Tasmin and William Rand are on the crew. They also have the youngest competitor, 19 year old Kim Collinson, on board.

Their yacht is one of 3 Reflex 38's in the race (there are only 12 in the world), skippered by Becky Walford, a professional skipper for the Clipper fleet. (The only lady skipper in the race.) Fleet owner Robin Knox Johnson, who has completed the race himself, rang the crew last night to wish them well. The other 2 Reflex 38's are Charter and Team Reflex, and everyone is expecting a great battle between them. Some are saying they will be the first 3, but anything can happen in this race and past winners, Parhelion, and Simply Red, a team from the Royal College of Surgeons, are among the teams who think otherwise.

Team Reflex are last years winners and Charter Continuum are one of 3 Barmouth entries, are being given support by snooker player John Parrot, who is sponsored by the same company. He will fire the start cannon for the race.

The other local entries are Red Dragon, with race founder Dr Rob Haworth on board for his 9th race and Kookarbura, which has 3 serving members of the Barmouth lifeboat crew aboard. Former lifeboat Coxswain Cedric Griffiths is the skipper and his son Nathan is with him. Also on the team is committee member Andy Sanderson, racing for the 3rd time.

As everyone busies themselves ready for the start the weather is a mix of heavy cloud and bright sunshine, with a fresh breeze (force 3 to 4) blowing from the North. The yachts parade out of the harbour at 1.00 pm and the race starts a mile offshore at 2.00 pm.