The Orana Respite Mersey Pharmacy team from Devonport in north-west Tasmania has won the 2004 Hydro Tasmania Three Peaks Race for a record fourth occasion, with a record-slashing overall sailing and running time.
However, the winning margin over the Slingshot team from Wynyard, also on the north-west coast, was a mere 1 minute 26 seconds, the closest finish in the history of this tough combination of short-handed offshore racing and mountain running over Easter.
The unique event comprises three offshore sailing legs around the rugged eastern coastline of Tasmania totalling 335 nautical miles. The three mountain running legs total 131km with a total ascent of 2646m to the peaks of Mt Strzelecki on Flinders Island, Mt Freycinet near Coles Bay on the East Coast and finally the 1270m dash to the peak of Hobart's Mt Wellington and back to the finish at historic Constitution Dock.
In the Main Racing Division each yacht has a sailing crew of three only and two specialist distance runners, but the Three Peaks Race now also includes Fully Crewed and Cruising Divisions.
The two Chamberlin-designed catamarans sailed up the Derwent River in the early hours of Easter Monday morning, crossing tacks several times until the 14m Orana Respite Pharmacy, owned by designed Rob Chamberlin and Terry Travers, docked just 2 minutes 24 seconds ahead of the 9.2 metre Slingshot, skippered by Steve Walker.
During the 1270 metre dash to the peak of Mt Wellington and back down to Constitution Dock, the Slingshot runners, Mark GUY from Hobart and Paul MCKENZIE from Launceston, cut the lead by one minute, but could not quite overtake the leaders, Nigel AYLOTT and Michael WHEATLEY, both from Victoria.
Aylott and Wheatley, a last-minute replacement in his first Three Peaks, finished the 2004 Hydro Tasmania Three Peaks at 0:39:08 hours. Aylott's first words," we did it again, "
summed up the team's remarkable race history. Only one minute and 26 seconds later, Slingshot's runners, Mark Guy from Hobart and Paul MCKENZIE from Launceston, crossed the finish.
The new race record, of 2 days, 10 hours, 24 minutes and 8 seconds smashed the 2001 standing record of Orana Respite Mersey Pharmacy by 5 hours, 44 minutes and 27 seconds.
"Somebody said we couldn't win another, so that was a challenge on. Four in a row and breaking the course record again, I think that's a good way to go out on a high note, "
Aylott said after the run. The Orana Respite Mersey Pharmacy team have said they will retire after this year's event.
First timer Wheatley said the Three Peaks was the toughest race he's ever done. "That hurt more than anything I've ever done, and that's because I've never done this before,"
he said. Wheatley was a last minute inclusion in the team after regular runner Andy KROMER was unable to attend due to work commitments.
Although Kromer missed the team's fourth win, the victorious sailing crew was the same - Rob Chamberlin from Caloundra in Queensland, Terry TRAVERS from Devonport and Peter FLETCHER from Hobart.
Guy and McKenzie were understandly upset after leading for most of the race, but acknowledged that they ran as hard as they could. "When you give it everything, you can't do more than that,"
Guy said. McKenzie and Guy ran the faster time on Mt Wellington than Aylott and Wheatly, completing the run in 2 hrs 40 minutes and 42 seconds.
The next boats to finish, both monohulls, did not reach Hobart until mid afternoon yesterday, with Three Peaks veteran Nick Edmunds completing his 16th event in his Radford 14, Haphazd, less than three minutes ahead of Everybody Fitness, an Adams 13 skippered by race newcomer Jason van ZETTEN from Launceston. However, on the Mt Wellington climb, the runners from Everybody Fitness took the lead to finish provisionally third.
Fourth boat to finish, about an hour later was the large Chamberlin-designed catamaran Incinerator, skippered by round the world sailor Kanga BIRTLES from Jervis Bay, NSW, whose running team comprised two women, Jacqui GUY from Hobart and Louise PROVIN from Scotland. They were second boat to Lady Barron on Flinders Island, but the women could not match the power running of the men aboard the other leading boats.
Then followed the first of the fully crewed boats, Richard EDMUNDS' Wildcard and the Newcastle 50-footer, Funnel Web, skippered by Ivan MACFADYEN.