28 May 2010

Scottish Islands Peaks Race -well done our boys

Martin and Rob's photos and account of their epic adventure.If you'd like to donate to their chosen charity there's still time.

We were just thankful to be at the start in Oban in 1 piece, getting 5 people to the start healthy was a challenge in itself! The skipper coming down with man flu several days before!

Rob and I decided not do much training in case injury prevented us from doing the race!

After dishing out Prozac to most of the sailors who were depressed at the lack of wind, we were off with the Oban 10k in blistering heat. Finishing the 10k mid pack Jamie rowed us out to the Yacht and the sweeping pick up worked a treat.

Then we were on the boat, and the engine off, bobbing up and down in Oban harbour right in line with an incoming ferry!

What do now? Use the engine and get disqualified?! We looked around and to our amazement the other teams were attempting to row their yachts to Mull! A look of horror in Jamie’s eyes as we pushed him into the tender at the back of the yacht to start rowing and push our Yacht out of the harbour!

2 hours of rowing later, and after watching the Elite teams lower water bikes off their catamarans and peddle out, we were out into some wind and making progress to Mull.

After some mishaps on the way including overpowering the boat by rigging the spinnaker incorrectly and snapping the stantions leaving us all nearly in the water, we arrived at Mull around 8pm to start the run.

After some great traversing around A’ Chioch we were nearly at the summit of Ben More when the daylight went and pitch dark set in, then the problems began!

We summated ok still plenty of good running teams around us, then started the descent off Ben More to find the next check point in a river gulley. It proved impossible to find in the dark , and after hours of climbing up and down the course of the river trying to find it, effectively climbing up Ben More another twice for good measure! We decided to press on a leave it, but this meant we would be disqualified from the official results!! We were very disappointed. All the other teams we’d spoken to on route had done the race several times before and knew the route like the back of their hands.

Still in the dark we attempted to navigate off the steep craggy side of Ben More and traverse round the corrie. Being on the go for 8 hrs solid and now quite tired this proved difficult to do safely, we were unable to see a safe line between the cliffs or below them just with head torch beams! I then slipped and broke my finger!

After quickly taping up the finger we trudged on and after a discussion we decided to take the safe option and head down off the end of the Ben to road and start a long 12 mile road trek back to Salen.

We stopped at the A+E in Salen to get my fingers x-rayed, which proved to be another 2 hour wait! God Bless the NHS!

Eventually getting back to the harbour in the morning. The officials after hearing our epic story, and after several other experienced running teams couldn’t find the 3rd checkpoint, they decided it was in the wrong place!! They felt we had run and climbed way more than we were supposed to so we were put back in the race!

We staggered back on the Yacht (our sailing team refusing to leave until 10am so they could buy booze from the local shop!) to a bowl of porridge and some grumpy sailors. Although there were 2 or 3 teams still out on the Ben, including the army team we’d passed near the summit(one of their runners was badly cramped up and they had to bivi down for the night and then drop out), the sailors were all for throwing in the towel and cruising the outer Hebrides!

There was still no wind, and after some negotiation the sailors decided to put the engine on and motor to Jura.

We arrived at Craighouse in the evening to sunset over the Paps, amazing. After having had enough of night time navigation we decided to wait till morning to tackle the paps, the paps being very rocky and hard to navigate safely in the day never mind in the dark. A few pints in the pub for team building were in order.

The next morning Daz motored us to the jetty in the tender to find stern officials waiting! They were unimpressed by us motoring in, and concerned we had not appeared the evening before and checked in when they had seen our Yacht arrive! Oops!

Anyway they let us set off to do the Paps leg, which involved some great scree running and several more falls onto my broken finger.

After trotting back along the road from 3 arch bridge we checked back in , although there was disquiet at us having motored the tender in.

We found two of the sailors in the Antler restaurant having had a slap up meal. They said ”come on no time for food we have to go”, to our disappointment, a steak would have done the trick. We were met with the news they had forgotten our life vests! And the outboard seemed to be broken, not only that they had moored in the ferry mooring and the skipper was none too happy!

There was a strong tide on its way out of the harbour as we set off to row back to the Yacht, Rob and I in running gear with rucksacks and no life vests! After 5 strokes one of the sailors shouted to rob to grab onto the Yacht Ella, so he could have a rest!! Rob clung to Ella for dear life, while the skipper of Ella came to see if all was ok? We had met him at the start , nice guy with a good running team, we had seen the runners out on the Paps. He told us they were going to have to pull out due to the poor wind and lack of time left, we were in a similar position.

Robs grip eventually gave out and we continued to Drift, Biral being too tired to paddle, gave the paddle to me , so I paddled one handed with broken fingers, while Jamie did the other side! After going round in circles and nearly drifting out to sea, us with no life vests and Rob unable to swim! We eventually made it back to Gael Force.

There was a further discussion, and it was decided the sailors had run out of time to get round the Mull to Arran, then to Troon, and then get the Yacht back to Oban for Wednesday.

We sailed to Islay for a Distillery tour to lick our wounds. After some more hairy sailing the rails being in the water several more times and the rudder out! We arrived in Islay and drank some whiskey at Laphraoig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg.

Rob and I were dropped off here, and they headed back. We purchased an island hopscotch ticket and made our way to Arran and Goat Fell!

We eventually made it back to Troon, to find there were 21 finishers out of 52, most of that 21 having motored anyway!

We had a real adventure and got a real sense of what it takes to complete the SIPR, you need a fully committed team who have the time to complete the race and are flexible enough to adapt to any circumstance, even having no wind to sail!

Here is the link to the race report from the winning team:


Martin and Rob.