Into Caernarfon in at Lightning Speed

At 19.05 on Saturday night Geoff West steered Lightning Reflex to the pier at Caernarfon to win the first sailing leg of the race, but the Royal Marines on Hannah were only a minute behind.

After crossing the start line the 2 boats had been together all the way, with Lightning Reflex leading and Hannah tailing her every move. The choppy seas of the afternoon gave way to easier conditions and a following wind after they came close in shore to round Bardsey Head and their final time for the 62 mile stage was 7 hours and 5 minutes, just short of the record time of 6.52 set in 1991.

Arriving at the entrance to the Menai Strait it was touch and go whether or not would cross Caernarfon Bar immediately, but Ken Fitzpatrick, the harbour master at nearby Pwllheli decided to go across and the Marines once again followed. As they motored up the channel to the pier they bumped the bottom a few times, but both made it safely to set their runners off up Snowdon. They are likely to cross the mountain in under 4 hours and get a good tide to carry them through the treacherous Menai Strait.

It was some time before the next yacht, KAAT, came into the channel, between Anglesea and the mainland, but approaching the town with it's distinctive castle walls they ran aground. They were already motoring, which is allowed once past a certain point so that the boats can safely manoeuvre, but ran up onto the bank and there they stayed while the chasing pack came by. With wind and tide pushing them onto the bank there was no way off until high tide. This team are already getting a reputation for mishaps, they got a penalty for not arriving at Barmouth within 24 hours of the start (all of 1minute!) and a dinghy had to go out to them to collect some vital paperwork (their indemnity form) just before they left the harbour.

The boats which came by them before nightfall were 'Stormcruiser' (arrival 21.28), Greased Lightning (21.30), Caol Ila (21.32), Farthing (21.35), Midnight Getaway (21.59) and Mew Gull (22.02). It's doubtful whether this chasing pack will be able to catch the tide to pass the Straits and so may have to wait. If that happens the 2 Reflex 38's will gain a big lead, as much as 6 hours and with winds to force 7 forecast for tomorrow they may start to move even faster and threaten some race records.
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