Started by a group of running and sailing enthusiasts last year the 3 Creeks race was intended as an accessible mini 3 peaks race, you know the one that sails between and then runs up the highest points in the UK, Snowden, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. The Devon 3creeks was intended to be a little less challenging sailed between Dartmouth and the Yealm with most of the running set along the coastal footpath.
The rules and the course are pretty simple. Maximum team of 5, 2 sailing races, 3 runs, runners must run in pairs, must get ashore by man power alone and there should be at least one responsible person on the board the yacht at all times. The winners would be the team with the shortest total time i.e. run times plus handicap adjusted sailing time. This year two teams from Exe SC decided to take up the challenge, Rex Frost’s First 31.7 Electra and Rick Newcombe’s X-34 eXehibitionist .
eXehibitionist fielded the events only mixed gender junior / senior team George Melbourne (17) Skipper and runner, Tony Wood an experienced sailor and runner, May Wood (14) a regular eXehibitionist crew and another fine runner, Abi Wright an occasional sailor and serious runner and Rick who acted as the responsible adult!!
For eXehibitionist the event started with an anxiety provoking Friday afternoon dash out of the Exe scraping through the approach channel with less than 20cm under the keel and a nasty breaking sea, however once out it was fast, if lumpy, sail to the Dart.
Saturday morning and after a race briefing and kit check at the always welcoming Dartmouth Yacht Club the first run, Dartmouth Coronation Green up the hill, (note unusual for a sailing race but hills feature a lot in this event!) back to sea level at Mill creek then up to Dittisham, down to the ferry up the hill on the other side and back to Kingswear. 8 miles. The first team came in some 20 minutes ahead having jumped the Dittisham ferry the next team was chased home by George and May an amazing performance at around 8 minute mile pace.
Then hop on the boat and out to start the first sail race. A steady 18 knots gusting 25 greeted the fleet then a fantastic sail around the Start in perfect conditions. eXehibitionist quickly overtook the boats ahead to lead around the Start and into Salcombe. However Electra despite starting 20 mins after the last boat (their runners got a little lost) sailed an amazing leg choosing to sail inside across Start bay they caught up to within 10 minutes of eXehibitionist, scraping so close to Prawle that if they had got any closer Rex could have answered the phone at the National Coastwatch station on the point.
Run 2 on board eXehibitionist a degree of alarm set in when it was realised that however hard you pumped, the dinghy would not fully inflate. A puncture. So we established the interesting technique of two runners paddling and George pumping frantically as they made for the shore. So a 10 minute advantage had turned into a 5 minute deficit as Tony and Abi set out to chase down the Electra runners one of whom just happened to be Abi’s partner, so no pressure there then!!
This was the tough one - 11 miles along the coast path from South Sands beach to Bolt Tail then inland to Marlbourogh into Salcombe and back to the beach. It was very close but Tony and Abi were first home by a slender margin. It was challenging with Tony taking one extended roll down a step section of the path. Fine running combined with accurate navigation was the secret of success.
Supper on board a pint and back for an early night ahead of the 0600 start. Salcombe harbour staff deserve a vote of thanks for reorganising the pontoons to get us all alongside for the night.
Day 2 sail 2 Salcombe to the Yealm via the Eddystone light. Up at 0500 for the start at Salcombe
harbour limits. George timed eXehibitionist’s start to perfection and we hit the line at 0600 exactly.
After a period of dodgy helming (Rick) eXehibitionist got into her stride and pulled out a big lead getting into the Yealm and a short paddle to the finish line (we were allowed alternative propulsion) as we lost the wind under Mouthstone point to drop her runners at 1034. Dinghy ashore again, however, this time with high tide we were able to get close in and the runners had only a short paddle / pump to the rocky shore.
Run 3 Cellar beach at the mouth of the Yealm around the coast path heading east for 5 miles before turning back toward Newton Ferrers and a finish at the harbour office 8 miles. Abi and Tony made short work of this one and came in with a very comfortable lead.
So it was over although time differential between the first and last teams was considerable, how would the handicaps work out?
The organisers kept the results under wraps until the prize giving BBQ at the Yealm Yacht club, when it was made clear that eXehibitionist had got it with Electra second an Exe SC 1 / 2 fantastic.
This was a great weekend. The concept worked brilliantly - a combination of the challenging sailing close pilotage and boat work to put the runners ashore and an endurance running event all over two days on the beautiful South Devon coast could hardly fail. We very much hope the event will run again with more competitors next year. Don’t miss it!