Ulula leads the pack as the race to the top of Scafell Pike begins.

The leading boat, J122 yachtUlula, arrived in Whitehaven at 9:20 this morning (Monday 22nd June), having so far led both sailing legs of this year’s 33rd PowerBar Three Peaks yacht Race. Her nearest opposition,Nunatak, came in 33 minutes behind her.

Photo of Ulula, lead yacht in the 2009 Powerbar Three Peaks yacht Race

The PowerBar Three Peaks Yacht Race is a gruelling, straight race with no handicap or adjustment system in place. Teams for the race each consist of three sailors and two runners.

The race begins at Barmouth, on the west coast of Wales. The teams sail north to Caernarfon, where the runners are put ashore to race to the summit of mount Snowdon and back. Once the runners are back on their boats, the next leg to Whitehaven begins.

On arrival, the runners mount bicycles, cycling to Ennerdale. They then summit Scafell Pike on foot before returning to Ennerdale and cycling back to their boats.

Tonight, the teams will sail on to Fort William on the Scottish Coast, ready for the final 1,344m (4,049ft) climb to the summit of Ben Nevis.

All told, the race comprises 389 miles of sailing, 18 miles of cycling and 72 miles of running.

Multiple trophies up for grabs
The winning team pockets the coveted Daily Telegraph Cup, with more trophies available such as the “Kings of the Mountains” trophy for the fastest runners over all three peaks. Only monohull yachts can enter, and engines can only be used in port; however, the yachts can be rowed or even pulled along by team members on shore.

Amongst the many entries this year areEzra, a replica sixty-foot Scilly Isles pilot cutter;Foo Crew, who aim to raise £10,000 for children with epilepsy; andTeam ABF, a group of Glaswegian army officers (including Andy Stockton, a former soldier who lost his arm in Afghanistan) whose crew is hoping to raise up to £15,000 for the Army Benevolent Fund.

So far,Ululahas led both legs of this year’s race, which began at 18:00 on Saturday 20 June. However she looks set to lose her lead, as she will have to wait along with everyone else for the tide, leaving her unable to depart until eight o’clock tonight.

The team credited their early lead to their unique tactics; whilst other boats remained close inshore, they moved further offshore to avoid the troublesome whirlpools and wind eddies. ‘We did better because we decided to get on with it and get out of there! The common wisdom there is to stay close inshore but we kept getting blown back and were going in circles, so we got out of there.’

Later, after the Snowdon climb, they raised the spinnaker alone and rowed through the darkness for four hours. The team also felt that their asymmetric spinnaker gave them an advantage; it appears that the three knots of wind needed to fill it are not sufficient to make the other teams’ spinnakers effective. It didn’t all go their way, however; in the Menai Strait,Ululafound herself forced onto a rock by another competitor.

Second into Whitehaven wasNunatak, who was in turn followed byGFT Adventure, whose team has the fastest runners. Fourth in wasEADS Innovation. Further back in the field,Sail Ezrabecame the first retirement, whileFoo CrewandABFwere disqualified after being forced by adverse weather and currents to use their engines.RAF Leaucharsran aground and are having the boat checked, but there has been no damage report yet.

Keep up with the race on www.threepeaksyachtrace.co.uk