The 3rd ISAMAC has successfully taken place, starting on 28 May 2022.
|ISAMAC 2022 - Results||
The Hardy Feckers
|Kinsale Two Forts Run||
|Kinsale to Adrigole sail||
|Hungry Hill run||
|Adrigole to Templenoe sail||
|Templenoe to Dingle sail||
Looking around for fresh challenges after completing the Scottish Islands Peaks Race in 2019, the ISAMAC Irish Peaks race popped up. We were attracted by the scale and audacity of Rob McCaffrey’s race plan but concerned about how bad the weather had been for the event in 2018 and 2019, turning a tough route into a war of attrition.
Taking part in 2020 was the plan, which ended up on the back burner until 2022.
Plans were laid, ferries booked and Team Aurora reunited in Kinsale on the day before the ISAMAC. Always good when a plan comes together.
Will, Charlie and I had a horrendous crossing from Swansea to Kinsale into a very fresh westerly kicking up a nasty sea in the Bristol Channel leading to Will taking to his bunk and all of us being cold and very wet. Damage included a broken kicking strap, lost masthead VHF aerial and Windex, contaminated drinking water, broken rowing blades and large quantities of bilge water slopping about below.
Even worse, the pristine team tee shirts were all soaked in bilge water too. Not a good start.
The sun came out, we got everything out to dry and started fixing the damaged fittings.
Meeting up with the team is always a joy. Joining us for the first time was Mike, Bill’s brother-in-law and Archie, Bill’s son. They were entrusted with TJ’s camper van for the race. Spirits were high, the forecast was for settled weather and we were all getting very excited about the challenges ahead.
Friday evening was fabulous. Charlie had laundered all the shirts ready for a drink in the yacht club plus meet up with the organisers and Hardy Feckers team over an al fresco dinner. Wonderful. The McCaffrey family had rallied to the cause with gusto.
Saturday race start day dawned with more organising and repairs leading up to the race briefing at 3pm.
Excitement was building towards the 5pm start time along with discussion among the runners of hidden treasure en route. Just before the start four burly customs officials headed for the Cardiff flagged superyacht that had come in a little earlier. Aurora was berthed alongside with flag Q still flying and shortly after the runners started, customs demanded to inspect Aurora too. This was completed with minutes to spare before the runners returned.
28th May Kinsale - Forth to Fort (12.68km)
We kicked off at 5pm on the nose for a hot and surprisingly hilly trot round Kinsale waterfront. As is ISAMAC custom we ran together with Team Hope's Rob and Jamie from the marina out to the first fort, where the promise of geo-cached treasure left (apparently) by Luis, delayed our time somewhat. Returning back to the Marina we were 'race on' and picked up the pace, out of town, past the Spaniard where the lure of a pint and a view were strong. A high five with Team Hope and back into town just past the 1 hour mark for a quick run through the marina and on to Aurora, sails ahoy!
Aurora headed to sea a short distance ahead of Hope and started beating towards the Old Head of Kinsale in a light faltering breeze.
Once round the head the spinny went up and we had a great light wind sail down the coast underneath a stunning starry night sky towards the Fastnet with the first lasagne not touching the sides washed down with hot chocolate. These conditions did not suit Hope who lost ground without a spinnaker.
Midday Sunday we were rounding the spectacular craggy coastline of Mizen Head, Ireland’s most South Western headland. After passing Sheep’s Head we had a sparkling spinny reach across Bantry Bay to an idyllic pier and anchorage at Adrigole. The tide was in so Bill and TJ could step ashore to meet Archie and Mike and prepare to take on Hungry Hill.
29th May - Hungry Hill (20km / 958m)
We arrived at Adrigole pier just after 3.30pm. We had a healthy lead over Hope but still felt a little under pressure after some doubt was cast over our estimated time (3 hrs) for this leg. It was a hot afternoon and probably spent too much of the day on deck in the full sunshine admiring the dolphins. After a couple of km on the road we hit the beginning of the ridge, traversing over layer after layer of exposed rock formations on either side of Hungry Hill. It was then a relatively straightforward run on the flat ridge down to the road again and round the bay to the waiting support crew. Total time 3 hrs 7 mins…phew!
Stepping back on Aurora, the wind was up and down for the sail west to round Dursey Island with the tide underneath us. We rounded on another dark starry night with the slightly menacing outlines of the Bull, Cow and Heifer Islands close by and minimal steerage way. Once around the corner an easterly breeze filled in and Aurora surged along into the Kenmare River. The wind softened and what started as an easy fetch turned into a light frustrating beat, arriving at Templenoe at the head of the Kenmare on a falling tide.
TJ and Bill hopped in the dinghy with Will, Aurora had to stand off to avoid running aground.
Mike and Archie had the bikes on standby.
30th May - Cycle (31.5km / 443m ascent) Run Carrauntoohil, Ireland's hIghest (13km / 1,186m ascent) Cycle (31.5km / 368m ascent)
The 3rd run seemed to come around very quickly. We arrived at Templenoe at 7.30 am but had the small matter of a 32k hilly cycle before we could slip on the running shoes. Conditions were good though, if a little chilly. The cycle to the base of Carrauntoohil was a little quicker than expected but the relatively short out and back route to Irelands highest peak seemed to drag a bit, probably a bit of fatigue kicking with lack of sleep. Nevertheless, we reached the cloudy top around 11am and retraced our steps on foot and wheel to be greeted yet again by our ever attentive support team. One more run to go!
Meanwhile it was time to anchor in the river and get some kip. Archie had more pressing matters and was interviewed for a Masters place on a Physiotherapy course. We were all delighted to find out a few days later that he was successful.
Will had a long row back to Aurora with the boys.
What started as a light breeze started to build.
We passed Hope heading up the river and gave them a toot on the foghorn.
Approaching Lamb’s Head at the mouth of the Kenmare we were now fully pressed under full main and number 1 and decided to drop to a No 3 jib and reef the main.
This proved a good call as conditions freshened further as we left the shelter of the Kenmare River coastline and the sea became lumpy and confused. It was brutal down below with Aurora hard on the wind heading for the mighty Skelligs at dusk. Both Bill and TJ did well to hold on but had had little food or rest as we completed a boisterous crossing of Dingle Bay, then threaded our way up the channel to Dingle Marina to moor up around 2am.
Bill and TJ rose to the challenge once again and were straight off to the final kit check.
31st May - Mount Brandon (30km / 1,980m ascent)
After 2 previous 3 peaks which were (just) all daylight affairs, at last the chance to use our head torches for a bit of a night run. We got our kit check at 2am with Danny and Mother McCaffrey at the Dingle Harbour, with the ghost of Fungie watching on, and set off to find the start of the long route up to Mount Brandon. Bill's excellent navigation with some pretty basic maps was absolutely spot on as we wove our way above the sparkling lights of Dingle on a long and very runnable track up to the first top. After a steep descent we hit the start of the hill proper and following the course rules took in the sharply undulating ridge above the tourist. daylight started to break and we got some cracking glimpses of coastline to the East. Head torches finally went off at 5am, not far from the summit. A quick kiss of the summit cross and some patchy views and we were off on a very long and very runnable return, again taking in all the hills of the ridge. arriving back into Dingle just before 8am with the promise of a shower (cold) and a full Irish (hot) and a massive sense of achievement.....Job Done.
With TJ and Bill on their way, Will, Charlie and I all got our heads down, planning to be at John Benny’s pub to see the finish. Thank the stars that Mike was on the case and cheered the boys home, we followed a few minutes later seeking forgiveness.
A post race full team Irish Breakfast was absolutely stunning and an emotional moment.
Another glorious adventure for the fabulous Team Aurora.
We had a great time in Dingle sampling some extraordinary pubs, team Hope finishing the race in style.
An unforgettable group cycle to Slee Head via some watering holes and with the added bonus of Aurora’s delivery team of Major and Rob joining in. We were tooted by an open top car taking a newly wedded couple to a photo stop.
Then a brilliant event pub dinner and McCaffrey special Prizegiving with full race team and marshal turnout in the back of the John Benny pub.
We followed this with a final pub crawl, crashing the wedding party of the couple we had passed on bikes for good measure.
Thanks again Oscar for the wonderful opportunity to adventure with the good boat Aurora.
Despite the occasional times with head in pillow, trying to keep it all in below deck, it is an amazing privilege to be part of Team Aurora. There are few places in my life that I have stepped into and felt such a great surge of happiness and Aurora is one of them. What grand adventures. TJ
Aurora Logbook...Yet another epic in the bag aboard the time travelling machine Aurora. He could be Doc from Back to the Future or Doctor Who but skipper extraordinaire Oscar has masterminded yet another unforgettable adventure with a distinctly green tinge!! Something special happens when you step aboard this vessel... already looking forward to the next journey.
For the logbook.....It may have taken a little longer than planned, but Team Aurora were back in full voice and throttle for the ISAMAC 3rd and Final (maybe), 'it's a challenge...not a race' epic. Stepping back on board Aurora is a lovely thing - a special adventure cocoon - and great to be back with the original and best- Will, Charlie and Oscar our symbiotic team mates. Lasagne fools. Superb sailing, amazing runs and a top class support crew who nailed every transition. Bravo lads...till the next time x
Team Aurora started the long trips home by land, sea and air next morning, Rob getting some great frisky dolphin shots, already dreaming about next year’s adventure.
ISAMAC 2022 write-up by Robert McCaffrey, race organiser and skipper of The Hardy Feckers
The third ISAMAC race saw us assemble a multinational crew, including Ricardo and Javier from Spain, Lewis returning from the US for his second ISAMAC, and Adam and Jamie from the UK, as well as me, Rob, as the skipper.
We assembled in Kinsale on Friday 27 May, starting off with a pint of Guinness in a pub near the quay. At 6.30pm, we met up with the crew of Aurora, the only other entrant to get to the start line this year. Team Aurora, skippered by Oscar Chess on his own boat, featured two crack runners, Bill and ‘TJ’/Alistair. They looked pretty fit to me. In fact, they let me see their expected times calculations, and they were anticipating to take six hours on the Brandon Ridge, six to knock off Carrauntoohil and only three hours to complete Hungry Hill. When I expressed some incredulity, particularly about Hungry Hill, they seemed to have a moment of doubt, which quickly transformed into determination. Our team had an early night, based on the foreknowledge that this was going to be a tiring event.
On Saturday morning, we went and did our shopping, made many last-minute preparations and attended the pre-race briefing and kit checks at Kinsale Yacht Club. With a few minutes to go we assembled once again at the entrance to the marina, and at 5 o’clock exactly, we were off on the Two Forts Run. We had agreed with the other runners that we would stick together for the first half of the run, and we ‘enjoyed’ a fruitless treasure hunt around the James Fort, looking for treasure that my brother Lewis had hidden, and which we could not find. Back at the half way point, Bill and TJ accelerated off, and opened up a one and a half minute lead on myself and Jamie by the time we arrived at the Charles Fort. It was a hot day, and the second half of the course is not flat, but we kept their lead down to two minutes by the time we arrived back to the marina. We ran back to the boat, jumped on and backed out of our berth as fast as we could. They had a three minute lead on us, which would prove to be crucial.
We both motored out to be abeam of the Charles Fort, but at the point at which we were obliged to turn off the engine, they were in an area of wind, whereas when we arrived three minutes later, the wind had just about died. They managed to stay in that wind for the next few hours, while we languished in a flat calm. Their boat would also have an advantage over ours in light airs, being lighter, and they also sported and extensively used their spinnaker - something we did not possess and were not set up for. However, our boat would have had a great advantage in stronger winds - but alas those winds never arrived, and the week was one of high pressure and not more than 12knots of wind. We amused ourselves in the dusk by attempting to row the yacht forward, and found that with great effort we could achieve an additional 0.5knots of boat speed.
We took hours to round the Old Head of Kinsale, but once we did, the breeze picked up a little and we sailed through the night, not losing any further time on Aurora. However, the dawn and (finally) Mizen Head saw the breeze go very light once more. Aurora put their runners onto Hungry Hill on a hot and clear day (a first for the race), and they raced around, from first foot on dry land to last foot off, in an incredible 3:07, having proved their point. Bravo, chaps.
We, meanwhile, continued to struggle in the light airs. We finally drifted into Adrigole at nearly midnight, after sailing for over 29 hours, but just before we arrived, Ricardo stumbled on the deck in the dark, fell over and cracked his head on the bulkhead, creating a nasty cut and quite a lot of blood. The bulkhead was okay. We went ashore, met up with our final crew member, Adam, who had arrived from a wedding in the north via a flight to Luton and then to Cork, and a series of local buses, and who had spent a pleasant and eventful day in the company of the marshals (my mum (86) and dad (90), brother Danni and his partner Sam, and my sister (also over from the US)). Having said a quick “Hello” to Adam, we started out on our night hike at midnight exactly. The walk in to Hungry Hill was pleasant enough, but the route-finding into the base of the hill, in the star-lit dark, was only accomplished with a compass bearing. Likewise, finding the route up the cliffs in the dark was a challenge, and we probably went a little bit too much to the left, ending up scrambling up some grippy rock faces near the top. We missed the tall conical beacon at about 580m altitude entirely, and finally arrived at the main beacon which indicates a subsidiary peak and the way down (or up). A short distance later we found the trig point at the top of Hungry Hill and we could start our traverse of the hill. We used a series of pre-calculated compass bearings and a GPS watch to determine our travel distance to traverse along the ridge, still in the dark, in similar fashion to the daylight but misty traverse of the previous race. I was obliged to concentrate hard during this tricky exercise, repeatedly reminding myself to ‘obey the compass,’ and not to be put off by the geology - which was liable to put us over the cliffs. When the mist came down at one point, I realised that it did not make any difference - we could not see anything anyway.
Finally, at about 4am, we started to get some glimmers of light from the early dawn, and the four of us, me, Lew, Ricardo and Jamie, were able to make some easier progress while still following the compass bearings to get off this complicated and massive massif. The final kilometre of descent is extremely challenging, including tussocky and very uneven terrain, and is not to be underestimated. However, I did hear a rare Grasshopper Warbler on this final stage, which was nice. We were glad to get back onto the road, and we ambled back to the quay as fast as we could, to complete the stage in eight hours - which we all thought a creditable time, given the challenges.
Adam was on the quayside, having waited two hours for us, but we were soon back on board (having had some banter with some local early-morning sea-swimming ladies), and we set off in fresh winds for Templenoe. We had a cracking sail, and arrived at just before 6pm, setting a new record for the ISAMAC for this leg of the race. Myself, Adam and Javier were rowed ashore by Ricardo, where we quickly found our bikes, kindly delivered by Brian Finnegan of Finnegan’s cycles in Kenmare. They were modern bikes with good brakes and gears, but without the lowest gears that would make it easier to cycle over the Ballachbeama Pass. After some faffage with gear and seat heights, we got away, and the boys, with fresh legs, made fast progress (with me languishing somewhat). We were rained upon on our way up to the Pass, and although they both cycled the whole way, I was obliged to get off and push for a few hundred of the steepest metres. At the top of the pass, we chatted to a local guy who had moved here from Limerick ‘for the hills’ and then we made a fast and exhilarating descent, before the final cycle in to the start of the climb. It took us 2 hours to cycle the 35km from the boat. We opened up a farmer’s gate and locked the bikes to a tree on the other side, next to the Cookie Monster café, and then made a start up the hill.
I was feeling cold after the cycle in, since I didn’t get my clothing quite right and the rain had chilled me. I wass till cold despite climbing the hill. I put a couple of extra layers on at the fence line at 350m, but was still struggling by the time we got to 450m, at 10pm. The traverse of Hungry Hill that morning had taken its toll on me, and I came to the conclusion that it was best that I turn back and let the others crack on to do the hill. I immediately felt much better, and this was my best decision of the week, without a doubt. When I got back to the bikes, at about 10.30pm, I found them chained and padlocked with someone else’s gear! I went and found the extremely irate proprietor of the Cookie Monster Café, who was annoyed that we had stowed our bikes on his land without asking. Fair enough. After a great deal of apologising on my behalf, he removed his chain and padlock, and I moved the bikes back onto the public road. It was better that this happened at 10.30pm, than at 1am the following morning (or later) when we/they got back down from the hill. I cycled back without great incident, only being rained on in the last 10 minutes, and hearing plenty more Grasshopper Warblers, reeling in the night.
However, the chaps had slightly more to report when they returned. They cracked on up the ridge, summiting Carrauntoohil in the deep dusk at about 11.30pm, and then made a quick descent. They found the bikes mysteriously moved from their original spot. They set off into the black and overcast night and got to the top of the Ballachbeama Pass, whereupon they started their swift descent. However, Javier’s head torch became dislodged (from his handlebars), leaving him in the dark, and he quickly crashed his bike, slightly mangling his knuckles in the process. The bike was unharmed. They continued on back to Templenoe with as much speed as possible, but being somewhat more careful. They arrived back at about 2.30am, for a round-trip time of about 8.5 hours. Impressive. However, once they were back on the boat we were in a total flat calm, with a foul tide going up towards kenmare. We decided to have a couple of hours of bunk-time, and then to try to make progress in the early morning.
I had put Lewis in charge of this next sea leg, and he was up early, 5am, to lift the anchor and to motor out into the slow (by this time fair) tidal stream in the early morning light. There was literally not a breath of wind, giving rise to mirror-like sea-surfaces and a spectacular dawn. We drifted along slowly, doing at least two 360° pirouettes, until the wind came up later in the morning. I was on the helm for our close encounter with Little Skellig, with Skellig Michael beyond, with Little Skellig covered with guano and surrounded in the air and on the sea by thousands of Gannets, as well as Guillemots, Puffins, Max Shearwaters and Razorbills. It was an amazing spectacle, and one of the high-points of the week. Later in the day the winds went lighter, and we struggled again, but into the night and the early morning, the winds strengthened again and we managed to arrive into Dingle at 3.30am.
The runners were ready to go, and I accompanied them to John Benny’s pub, where I conducted their kit-check (I just had them empty-out their kit onto the pavement). We jogged along the sea-front and found our way onto the track that leads to the bottom of the start of the ridge, with the merest hint of a dawn. I left them to get on with it, and away they went, while I jogged back down to the boat for a well-earned kip. Javier and Adam must have had some energy left after their adventures on Carrauntoohil, since they cracked on, having some good views despite the misty top, and returning in a new record of 5:36. We had all assembled at the statue of Fungie, the now-deceased super-star dolphin that had previously graced Dingle harbour for many years, bringing thousands of tourists and plenty of Euros to the town, but who had gone missing in October 2020. The crew from Aurora were there - having finished the previous day and after enjoying some liquid refreshment the night before - the marshals were there, and the rest of our crew were also there, so it was quite some welcoming party. The runners gave us a final sprint, for show, and the ISAMAC 2022 was over, with - for the first time - all of the teams that started actually finishing the race.
For good measure, the rest of our crew went and walked the Brandon Ridge, meeting Lewis and Danni who had come up the tourist track, enjoying some good views on the way to the cloudy top, and sunshine on the way back down to the tourist car park.
That night, we all assembled at John Benny’s Pub for a dinner and for prize-giving. There was plenty of speechifying, everyone got a prize and a mention, and there was plenty of banter and craic. It was a fantastic evening.
The next morning, Javier left the boat at 6.45 to get buses and trains back to Cork for an early departure, and we started our return at 6.50am, motoring out into another flat calm (seeing Balck Guillemots in the channel out of Dingle Harbour) and spending the entire day using the ‘iron main,’ passing through Dursey Sound, and finally arriving into Baltimore at 8pm (closely followed by a swimmer who had just swum into the town from the Fastnet Rock, 10 miles distant). During that day of motoring, we saw a Minke whale, and during the week we saw dolphins playing around the boat many times, including often at night, leaving a wake of phosphorescence behind them. Lew had made a mountain of food (‘meat slop’) which we polished off with alacrity. We had a quick pint in the local bar and an early night. Next day we were away by 6am, and, with a few hours of excellent sailing, we arrived back in to Kinsale at 3pm. An old friend of myself and Lew’s, Manny Lange, came on board for a visit, and the marshals all showed up to congratulate us on a successful week. Ricardo spent from 4pm to 7pm cooking delicious tapas dishes, so many in fact that we could not eat them all. We booted the marshals off the boat at 8.30pm, to start packing and cleaning, but managed another pint in the town before bed, all feeling rather jaded after a busy week.
Lew left the boat at 6.50am the next morning to go back to the US (a journey that, with delays, took him 40 hours), and the rest of us were off the boat by 8.30am. We dispersed to the four winds!
The 2nd ISAMAC has successfully taken place, starting on 1 June 2019.
|ISAMAC 2019 - Results||
Team Trionium 2
Pull The Middle Rope
|Kinsale Two Forts Run||
|Kinsale to Adrigole sail||
|Hungry Hill run||
|Adrigole to Templenoe sail||
|Templenoe to Dingle sail||
*Includes time penalty of 60 minutes due to incomplete ascent of Carrauntoohil (to 750m altitude)
Fastest at the Two Forts Race in Kinsale: Team Trionium Two (62:00)
Fastest on each hill leg:
Hungry Hill: Lady Buoys (6:52)
Carrauntoohil: Team Trionium Two (9:57) -#UpTheFlats# incurred a 60 minute time penalty for turning back at 750m altitude, finishing in a total of 10:07.
Dingle-Brandon Ridge: Team Trionium Two (8:29) - Special mention Lady Buoys (6:58 land-based)
Fastest aggregate of all hill legs: Team Trionium Two (26:44) - Second place #UpTheFlats# (31:02)
Fastest on each sailing leg:
Kinsale to Adrigole: Team Trionium Two (17:29)
Adrigole to Templenoe: #UpTheFlats# (16:50)
Templenoe to Dingle: #UpTheFlats# (13:20)
Fastest aggregate for all sailing legs: Team Trionium Two (65:02) - Second place: #UpTheFlats# (73:10)
Fastest overall: Team Trionium Two (92:49) - Second place #UpTheFlats# (101:42)
Best pre-race publicity effort: Team Trionium!
Best race video: TBA
Best race write-up/blog: TBA
Oldest crew to finish: #UpTheFlats# (Total age 293 years, average age 48.5 years - six crew)
Youngest team to finish: Team Trionium Two (Total age 185 years, average age 44 years - four crew)
Youngest team to start: Pull The Middle Rope (Total age 155 years, average age 31 years - five crew)
Last yacht to finish: #UpTheFlats#
A quick video of the start of the ISAMAC 2019 by Chris O'Connor at Cojo Films
ISAMAC 2019 Day 2 video by Chris O'Connor at Cojo Films
ISAMAC 2019 Kinsale to Hungry Hill video by Chris O'Connor at Cojo Films
ISAMAC 2019 - Two teams arrive at Adrigole for Hungry Hill video by Chris O'Connor at Cojo Films
ISAMAC 2019 - Final sailing leg to Dingle (plus shots of local marine life) video by Chris O'Connor at Cojo Films
ISAMAC on CorkBEO
Collection of ISAMAC 2019 photos from Team Trionium 2 (including some from other teams)
Collection of ISAMAC photos from #UpTheFlats#
ISAMAC 2019 write-up by James Reidy, skipper of Pull The Middle Rope
ISAMAC 2019 write-up by Robert McCaffrey, race organiser and skipper of Team Trionium Two
ISAMAC 2019 write-up by Sharon Dwyer, skipper of #UpTheFlats#
Above: James Glasspool on Team Trionium 2 rounding 'The Bull' at the entrance to the Kenmare River at dawn on day 3 of the ISAMAC 2019. Click on image for higher resolution version. For free use.
The race viewer below is also viewable separately at http://yb.tl/isamac2019
The story of the race starts not at the start line but many months before, when Facebooks advertising AI monster started matching my history of likes with the keywords carefully selected by our good leader and organiser, Rob McCaffery. He never did answer me in detail when I asked what these keywords may have been, but I can only assume it included things like "sailing”, “hiking”, “rain”, “misery”, “sleep deprivation” ......
But the Facebook machine did its job and sparked the cogs of thought. I have a boat, a “Colvic UFO 27”. A little older and smaller than the boats that carried out the previous year’s endeavour but it’s what we had. It could sleep five so that defined our team size.
A few tentative text messages later and I was sure of at least one or two more people, it was time to look at this challenge in earnest. A good read of the previous year’s history and I got the idea that it was a tough event, but they were unlucky with the weather, the chances of the weather being poor again would be slim?
With surprising ease manage to round up five more people. Appropriate experience for the task ahead was slim (The fifth member was rounded up on his first ever sail with us) but we stuck the head’s down and started to chip away at the mountain of inadequacies.
The tasks were split into two groups, the tasks at sea level and the bits above. I took charge of getting the boat ready, upgrading a few bits here and there, getting the safety equipment and studying the charts. The lads concentrated on the hills, going up and down the ones we had locally working on fitness and navigation skills and then travelling to the hills that are specified for the race. Our first attempt at “Hungry Hill” in February had us realising we were not going to get it finished in the daylight and a "shortcut" down off the hill resulted in us getting caught in a dead end, tantalisingly close to green fields and a warm car! But Hungry Hill and Carrauntoohil were completed in the following months, our runners attempted a few 10k's and in theory we knew we could make a reasonable attempt at the challenge.
With the land side of things getting slightly under control the next task is getting the boat to the south coast from its normal home in the Shannon estuary at Foynes Yacht Club. This trip was to be two of our team members first time outside the estuary. Fortunately, the weather shone the May bank holiday weekend and with a mixture of sailing and motoring the boat was bought around the west coast to Glandore with stops for food and drink on the Blaskets, Valentia and Crookhaven. Each day saw us escorted by various pods of dolphins, but the whale activity reported on afloat that weekend eluded us.
Roll on race weekend and it’s a scurry trying to get everything organised. Mark and I came down on the Friday night and got a few bits organised and met with the crews of “Team Tromium” and the then just retired “Supernova goes x rated” for a bite to eat and a strict single pint in the club house of Kinsale Yacht Club. Saturday morning had us collecting the rest of our crew from the train station in Cork and carrying out some last-minute shopping for food and back up OS maps. Five o’ clock came around quicker than expected but we got Mark and David to the start line and off from the entrance to the KYC pontoon's and the rest of us into the car and back to the boat in Castlepark marina. A quick packing away of the balance of the supplies and the swift removal of air from our dinghy had us heading across the water to hover around the KYC pontoons for the pickup of the lad’s. While loitering around a space was spotted and the boat was half tied up with Ian going ashore to direct a tired and sweaty duo to their waiting vessel. Lines were slipped as the lads stepped aboard and we motored though the heavy mist at the strictly enforced speed limit towards “Charles Fort” and “Team Tromium” who were motoring out on “Hope” getting their sails in order. With “Charles Fort” on the beam our diesel was cut, and we started beating though the murk towards the Old Head.
Our first few tacks and some good light airs pointing out of "Wildcat" saw us slowly chipping at the lead the guys on "Hope" had on us and by the time we had left the Harbour we had crept into the lead. At this stage the fog was also lifting, and the mood was good, a long night was ahead but we had a respectful start! Eight o clock saw us around the head with us still leading the posse and on a comfortable beam reach.
The winds slowly built over the next few hours blowing away our light winds advantage and both "Hope" and "Gizelle" slowly chipped away at our lead with “Gizelle” over hauling us out from Glandore bay at a little before midnight. We kept them in sight, but we were starting to feel the conditions at this stage. Two in the morning saw “Gizelle” starting to creep inland. Everyone on Wildcat had been sick at this stage and wet beyond wet. A major problem with having a small boat was becoming evident, the off watch had no comfort and were getting tossed around below. Looking at the guys in “Gizelle” heading inshore made our mind up for us, no point being wet sick heroes. We followed their lights in and a little after three am we passed the Baltimore beacon into a relative oasis of calm. We rafted up rather ungracefully beside “Giselle” on the pontoon in Baltimore and had a damp deep sleep, the race could wait till day light. Before sleep however a quick check on the tracker showed that the guys on "Hope" had ploughed on and passed us both after our run for cover, hardy feckers!
Morning came and while dry and fine, it came with a promise of 41 knot gusts. Still a bit smarting from our previous night, the decision was made to sit it out for the day, why kill ourselves when we had a choice of eating and drinking houses? As the day went on we learnt of a music festival that was taking place on Sherkin, maybe a suitable alternative to the hardship that lay ahead of us? But no, our competitive sides came back into play and after a quick consult with the weather and “Giselle”, both teams planned to leave together the following morning.
Five bells saw us off from the pontoon and back in the race, next stop “Adrigole”. It was a fantastic day for sailing with a decent breeze to take us outside the harbour and around Sherkin. At this point decisions had to be made, the wind was coming from where we wanted to go, do we go for the long tack out or do we stick inshore? It was decided to creep in between the islands and see what advantage could be got from the tides while the guys from “Gizelle” headed out and tried to round Mizen with the off-shore approach. Unofficially (to us anyway) it became a “race to Mizen”.
While we felt over confidant that we had them as we went through “Long Island bay”, as we approached Mizen it became evident that our confidence was premature and they slingshotted around onto the west coast a good 4 minutes before us and led us well all the way into Adrigole. Bantry Bay saw us poling out the head sail and tipping down wing on wing. Our great days sailing was slightly hampered when I noticed the instruments had started to operate erratically, we had left our nav lights on and flattened both our leisure and starter battery! A quick panic and fumble with a jump starter pack purchased on a whim in lidl in the previous few weeks saw the engine started (just about) and the battery’s charging again just in time for entering Adrigole Harbour.
At this stage the lads from “Gizelle” were well ashore and on their way up the hill but we had a plan to make up some time here, a previous consult of the charts had assured us of enough water to land the two guys with a "drive by” onto the Pier, no inflating the dinghy for us. But like all good plans, ours was flawed. While there was indeed enough water for us to go alongside the pier, there was no way of landing the lads, no steps or ladder to be seen and the pier was too high a jump for even the gigantic Ian Mulderrig. A quick "oh shit" moment saw everyone scrambling around to start to try inflate the dinghy but as I circled around I spotted a small fishing boat attached by a line to the pier – If we could come alongside the fishing boat, the guys could jump into it and pull themselves ashore, perfect, the idea was sold, the dinghy remained pathetic looking and we motored alongside the small boat and the lads jumped into the worst smelling boat of all time. At the same time, I managed to get Wildcat tangled up into a mess of mooring lines. A lot of shouting, laughing and bollixing later saw Ian and Joe ashore and the rest of the crew and a few more (cheers “Gizelle” and Marshalls) freeing us up and us escaping red faced to a visitor mooring to hide out our shame! As the lads started heading up on their trek, the rest of us headed down, attacked the baked ham and went for a good long doze.
We woke a few hours later to see the girls from “Lady Buoys” arriving in after a tough sail around the coast. We gave them a quick wave then went below the start examining the various weather apps to try get a read on the weather. After being blown out of it for the past few days, the opposite problem was emerging, zero wind forecasted for the night. And rain, lots of rain. No one fancied getting wet all night sitting in the bay going nowhere. But waiting till the morning to leave would mean we wouldn't get to Carruntoohil in time the following day to complete the hike in the day light, therefor adding another day to the race. This was the first indication that we may not get completed before the dead line some of the lads had for getting home. Big decisions were made, and it was decided to take our night’s sleep and retire from the race. We second guessed ourselves a few hours later when we saw the lads on “Gizelle” leave but the dampness was still in our minds and we stood by our decision and met our hill walkers with the news that we were out.
The following morning a quick look at the tracker told us that “Gizelle” had made far more progress than we thought possible overnight but at this stage we had to live with our choice as we did not have the time to complete the race. We started the engine and motored through light wind's out the bay. Our engine over heated a little due to a slipping fan belt with Bere Island on our starboard beam but at this stage the wind had picked up so the engine was knocked off and a cracking sail was had out the bay. As we were out of the race at this stage we decided to go through Dursey Sound and show the guys the famous cable car. We managed to sail through with it just getting a little rough on the North side of it with the wind against tide. We were headed to Portmagee for dinner and a pint and the journey across Kenmare bay was hard earned. The wind was on our nose and every other wave came in to greet us in the cockpit. Instead of tacking out towards the Skelligs we started up the iron top sail and tried to keep close to the wind but in hind sight we should have taken the longer route. We crossed paths with the lads on “Hope” as we closed on the north side of the bay and later saw pictures of them rather comfortable drinking tea in the cockpit, while we were miserable drowned rats.
We passed Puffin island to see a few examples of one of my favourite birds, I'm not sure seeing them was enough to cheer up the lads though, that took steak dinner and a pint of the black stuff in Portmagee. A good sleep was had in our rather wet bunks on the pontoon there.
The following day saw us round Valentia and across to Dingle. The sun was out, the sail short and the mood a lot better. Fungie even briefly graced us with his presence. For a moment, I even reckoned I might get some of these guys on a boat again. We tied up in Dingle with mixed feelings, happy to have been a part of it, glad to be able to rest but disappointed we did not chip away at a bit more of the route.
Preparation - we had done two of the hills but not too long before the race, ideally these would have been knocked off earlier in the year. Also, the boat was being prepped until the very last minute, everything should be in place on the day of the race and you should not be running around getting last minute supplies
The Boat - we had Wildcat, a Colvic UFO 27. A good boat and even though it has five bunks it’s too small for a crew of five lads with an average height of near six foot. Storage of wet gear and the lack of good sea bunks were the main issues. Sleeping while underway was next to impossible as there is only one good sea bunk (two if on a starboard tack). Keeping our bunks and sleeping gear dry was a challenge also, we found leaks that had never cropped up before, being damp was more demoralising than anything else. A Spray hood would have been a very welcome addition also. That being said though, in drier conditions we would have probably plugged on a little longer.
Crew - get a crew that you know will get on together, we had a great crew - no one ever lost their temper or had a strop, even though they may have been entitled to.
Dinghying ashore - have the dinghy inflated and ready to go - just in case things are not as you are expecting when it comes to putting someone ashore.
Would we do it again? Yes - Will it be next year? We'll see.......
We took part in the first ISAMAC in 2018, but in 2019 we only had two crew that were returning - Robert McCaffrey, skipper and organiser of the ISAMAC race, and Stuart Aikman, who had completed the Carrauntoohil leg the previous year. James Glasspool from Surrey, UK, and Sam Magill-Dohan (who lives in Dublin and sounds like an Irishman but turned out to be a 23-year-old American student and expert 'round the cans' racer) made up the rest of the crew on the Beneteau Oceanis 37 ‘Hope,’ chartered from Sovereign Sailing in Kinsale. We had tried to find two additional crewmates, but could not get anyone else ‘over the start line.’
Five crews in total entered the race, although one, having delivered the boat to the start, had to drop out due to a series of personal issues in the crew. That left only two to sail the boat and they decided that that was not enough (a sensible decision as it turned out). We had also been advised on the morning of the race start that an area of low pressure, with associated F8-9 winds, was due to blow in through the night and were persuaded to start the race an hour early, at 5pm, to allow the crews to gain some sea-room and the possibility of a land-fall in reasonable conditions. So, four crews assembled on the start line, with some trepidation.
At the stroke of 5pm eight of us set off, two from each team. We purposefully stayed together around the James Fort, and actually took it in turns to lead the pack, each receiving applause and kudos from the other runners as they did so. We kept together through the town, but on the hill up to the Spaniard pub, the field began to stretch, with myself and Sam at the front. We dug in and opened up a decent lead, but were surprised to find our chasers so close to us after we touched the wooden doors of the Charles Fort to start the return leg. We pushed on again and found ourselves with a comfortable lead of about three minutes by the finish line, where my parents (part of the marshalling team) were waiting for us. I gave them a quick hug and a kiss and we scampered off to our waiting boat, having finished the 12.5km Two Forts race in about 62 minutes.
We boarded the boat and the lines were quickly slipped, allowing us to motor out and to get the sails up in the misty evening. We found #UpTheFlats# bearing down on us at speed and realised that we had not been motoring at our maximum allowed speed of 5knots, a situation we quickly rectified. The engine was turned off as we passed the Charles Fort, this time afloat, and we sailed into the murk. On the way out towards the Old Head of Kinsale (which is always further than everyone expects), we were overhauled by both #UpTheFlats# and the team of former international lady rugby players that was Team Lady Buoys. Fair play to them both. Alas, we did not see the lads of team Pull The Middle Rope, on their 27-footer, until a couple of days later (of which more anon).
Rounding the Old Head of Kinsale is a significant moment, since it is at this point that you can set sail for distant headlands, and also where you finally find out what the sea is really doing. It was rough! 15 knots of wind grew to 25 knots and beyond, with waves to match (although without the swell of the previous year). Around 10.30pm it grew dark, although there were sufficient lights ashore to allow relatively easy helming. However, past midnight it grew rougher and at the same time the number of lights that we could see along the shore reduced to practically zero, making it very difficult to steer an efficient course. The helmsman really had to struggle for a few hours in the dark and stormy night.
It was around two o’clock that we had a stroke of fortune, partly due to our bad luck the year before. In 2018, we had sailed in very similar conditions and with worse swell, but with failing instruments, an exploding toilet, a partially blind helmsman (he’d lost his crucial glasses) and seasickness. In 2019 we had a fully-functioning boat and crew, and we did not even think to turn back. The other crews in the race had not had the benefit of surviving the previous year, so they all, without exception, headed for safe and quiet anchorages - mostly Baltimore, gifting us practically a 24-hour lead that we did not relinquish for the rest of the race.
After that rough night, we were glad to round Mizen Head and Sheep Head to enter into Bantry Bay, for the much calmer sail to Adrigole, which we arrived at at 11.15am on Sunday morning. We had an exceptionally smooth departure from the boat and arrival at the pier, a quick kit-check and then myself and Stuart were off to Hungry Hill. Stuart had warned me that he had not been able to train much, and in fact his ankle was still sore after injuring it playing gaelic football with some Irish cousins a few weeks before. We walked in to the hill, following the Beara Way for a section up to the ridge line, and then headed up the left side of Hungry Hill, away from the treacherous cliffs on the right hand side. Other teams (the following day) headed too far left and ended up climbing up the cliffs on the left hand side. On the way up we had around 40 knots of wind, and found ourselves over-balanced and at times crawling on hands and knees to work our way up against the wind. Visibility at the stone-built beacon at 550m altitude and at the top of Hungry Hill (650m) was down to around 30-40m. At the top we made a start with map and compass, but found ourselves blown downwind and off course quite rapidly - a valuable lesson for future years. At the top, Stuart turned his ankle and started to limp along. Fortunately, the drizzle lifted somewhat and we were able to see the onwards course. We made a point of descending diagonally across the prevailing geology (a series of ridges and valleys), noting later that other teams followed the geology and ended up towards the cliffs at the end of each hill (not good). Stuart turned his ankle again another couple of times on the very tricky tussocky terrain, and was suffering somewhat, but persevered. The wind kept up all the way around the ridge, but once we had passed Adrigole Mountain, we became sheltered by the hills and the wind dropped. The descent to the road is not a small matter, with continued route-finding challenges and difficult terrain. We were greatly relieved to finally arrive at the road for an easy walk back to the boat and an elapsed time of 8:18.
However, at this point we discovered that the dinghy had blown off the back of the boat, and we had to go and find it. Luckily I knew a short cut around to the foreshore from the previous year, and we eventually found the dinghy blown directly downwind from the moored yacht. We started to row back, but one of the oars fell into two pieces, just out of our grasp, and so we had to allow ourselves to be blown back onto the shore. When trying to retrieve the section of oar I had a fall on the slippery rocks, but managed to find the oar. We stuck the oar together and Stuart then had a strenuous row against about 20 knots of wind back to the boat. A fabulous chicken curry was waiting for us, cooked by James.
We set out again after a very short stop, at around 9.30pm, into another blowy night. We were already rounding The Bull island off Dursey Island at around 6.15am the next morning, as the other crews ventured out of their sheltered anchorages (although the Lady Buoys had made a start at 7pm the previous evening and had nearly caught up with the other teams after stopping early on the first night). We had a handy lead. We enjoyed a rollicking sail up the Kenmare River and arrived at Templenoe at around 1pm, under glowering clouds. We nosed into the shallows on a rising tide, launched the dinghy with Sam and James aboard, and then backed out to find an anchorage (although we had to re-lay after we found that we were dragging our anchor). Stuart and I had a very pleasant few domestic hours, tidying up, having a snooze and cooking spaghetti Bolognese.
On shore, not all was as calm. The lads took 20 minutes to find the bikes that had been left for them by Finnegan’s Cycles in Kenmare, and then fixed Sam’s own pedals to one of the bikes. Within 10 minutes of setting off, James had a puncture, but fixed it quickly. However, he was not happy with the set-up of his bike (and only rectified it on the way back from the hill, to his regret). The lads had a good pedal to the foot of the hill (although the gearing of the bikes meant that they had to push them over the Ballaghbeama Pass). They set off up Carrauntoohil, ascended to the fence line at 350m and turned right to ascend further up the fence. I had written in the race instructions that it was a 7km round trip up and down the hill, whereas it was a 14km round trip. Due to this misinformation, they were strongly tempted to turn around before the summit, being convinced that they had achieved it and were descending the other side, but James convinced them both to soldier on and they finally summited the top around 6.40pm, 5:40 after starting out. They had a largely uneventful descent and were back at Templenoe at around 22:50, for a round-trip time of 9:57. Once back on the boat, we fed them the spag bol (they were very hungry and ate it with gusto), and given the almost complete absence of wind, we decided to all bed down and have a night’s sleep. While we slept, #UpTheFlats# we having the sail of their lives, zooming towards us through the night.
At 5am and 6am we were up to check the wind at Templenoe, but there was none. At around 7am we motored out to the designated start of the sailing leg, but still, it was no wind. Fortunately, the tide took us down the Kenmare River at a rate of around 2 knots and we eventually picked up around 1knot of boat speed in light airs. We could see #UpTheFlats# screaming towards us, seemingly in plenty of wind, while we were completely becalmed. As they neared, we raised them on the phone and had a jolly natter. At that point precisely, they sailed into our wind hole and we found the wind that they had enjoyed all night. Our respective fortunes were reversed: off we went to Dingle on a lovely day sail, while they had to scrape their way up to Templenoe on fleeting zephyrs for their attempt on Carrauntoohil. We crossed paths with the wild men on team Pull The Middle Rope, but they were heading for shelter in Valentia on their storm-tossed boat, while we forged onwards to Dingle.
Sam took the helm and gave us all a lesson on how to sail a boat, with a fine eye for trimming and a refined touch on the wheel, over the course of five or six hours. I was below, making teas and coffees, being somewhat thrown around and accidentally pouring a cup of hot chocolate on my hand. D’oh! I took the wheel for the approach to Dingle Harbour. We had flukey winds passing along the cliffs to the west of the entrance but then found strong winds funelling out through the narrow entrance to the harbour, just next to the light tower. We threw in a few tacks to get us abeam of the tower, and went into gear, only to find that we required high revs to make way against the wind and outgoing tide. Within a few minutes we heard a temperature alarm on the engine, but being in the buoyed channel and close to the marina, we kept going under engine-power. The absence of water coming from the exhaust should have been a clue to what was going on. We tied up to the pontoon at around 8pm, and were welcomed by the marshals, who took us to the pub for a pint and a bite to eat. Although our sail was over, our sailing leg did not finish until we started for the hill. We decided to call it a day, but to start very early the next morning, since we could see that #UpTheFlats# were finally gaining on us.
We woke at 4.30am, and were off the boat by 5.10. We made our way to John Benny’s Pub, ending our 30:28 sailing leg (Templenoe to Dingle) with a five-minute kit check, and set off for Mount Brandon at 5.20am, in the early morning light. The weather was already being unkind as we slogged up the slopes of Macha na gCab and through the freezing bogs, and we endured three hail storms on our ascent. We had good views along the ridge from An Gearan to Barr an Ghéaráin, but practically zero visibility above 850m and all the way to the top. We touched the cross (taking around 4:20 to do the outward leg) and started down. James’ ankle, which he had sprained a month before (and had feared that it was broken) was giving him some pain, so we decided not to run the descent. We met the (now land-based) Lady Buoys team, who were moving very fast. They eventually completed the route in a creditable 6:58. We also passed the team from #UpTheFlats# on the lower slopes, but somehow managed to miss them around the corner of the hill. We enjoyed the better weather on the lower slopes of the hills, and as we came into town we made a desultory effort at a run in the last few yards to give an athletic effect to our efforts for the waiting marshals and the ‘rent-a-crowd’ that they had somehow managed to gather together to welcome us back. We had finished the Dingle-Brandon-Dingle leg in 8:29.
Relieved that it was all over (we thought), we went into the pub for a post-run pint and lunch, and met Sam’s girlfriend Leah who was in town to help him sail a delivery of a Sigma 33 back towards Cork.
We went back to the boat to try and find out the cause and effects of our overheating. After much investigation, we decided that a transitory blockage of the seawater intake at some stage unknown, had led to the disintegration of the impeller. The impeller having been destroyed, there was no suction and the blockage (a plastic bag, perhaps) would have been washed off. Now there was no impeller and hence no cooling water. This led to the engine overheating, and to the melting of the exhaust box. Very much more of this and we might have experienced an engine fire. The next day the charter company (with substantial effort) fitted a new exhaust box and tested the system to make sure that everything was working as it ought.
At eight o’clock that night the four crews assembled in John Benny’s Pub for the race prize-giving. Almost everyone got a mention, and a variety of ‘prizes’ were awarded, including to Calamity Paula on team Lady Buoys, who at one stage vomited so hard she fell out of her bunk and gave herself concussion. Team #UpTheFlats# was second-placed overall (and in the all-rounders category) in a time of 101:42, while the winners were Team Trionium Two (us) in a time of 92:49. During a particularly sensitive and soulful rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ by the professional singers in the pub, the two runners from #UpTheFlats# returned from the hills, to be welcomed by a particularly long and rousing cheer, with clapping, whistling and rowdiness. The singers were unimpressed. That night in the pub was great craic.
The following day, with engine cooling system fixed, we set off at 4.30pm for a 22-hour motor back to Kinsale in light airs. As dusk fell, we passed between magical Skellig Michael and Little Skellig with its spectacular seabird colony. Overnight we enjoyed the sight of the Milky Way, and of Jupiter and its moons through the binoculars. Pods of dolphins played around the boat and we saw many seabirds, including gannets, guillemots, razorbill, black guillemot, many Manx shearwaters, puffins, kittiwakes and a variety of gulls.
Back in Kinsale we treated the marshals to a sailing trip around Kinsale harbour and out to the Charles Fort, before we tidied the boat and had a last meal together. We were all in bed by 10pm. Next day, we cleaned the boat, said our “thank-yous” and “goodbyes,” and made our way to the airport for the flight home.
What a week. What a challenge. What an adventure!
1. Make sure that you have crew that can commit to the whole week.
2. Ideally have one or two crew in reserve if anyone drops out.
3. Keep sailing, unless it is really bad (>F6?).
4. Be prepared to navigate in zero visibility on the hills.
5. Have an altimeter with you (either GPS or barometric) - it is extremely useful for navigation.
6. Eat properly and make sure that the crew get rest.
7. Steer the shortest course (!)
8. Keep moving.
9. Be prepared for discomfort and pain.
10. If it feels hard, it is because it is hard.
Our boat, Giselle, was a Beneteau Oceanis 411, owned and skippered by Robert Murphy. Robert wanted a crew that would represent Swords Sailing and Boating Club (SSBC), was gender balanced and had a chance of at least winning the award for the oldest crew. Most of us have sailed dinghy’s in SSBC for many years and Robert and his good pal John Dowling (skipper no. 2) are both experienced cruiser sailors. We are all reasonably fit; Robert and Michael Madigan are both marathon runners and the rest of us John, Roger, Amy and Sharon have managed 5 km Parkruns. We all have a love of the outdoors which includes hill walking (not hill running) and following a quick walk up and down Howth Hill to confirm we could all move, a plan was hatched in the autumn of 2018 to enter the ‘All Rounders’ category of the ISAMAC.
We were all very enthusiastic at first, thinking we could all probably do at least two if not all of the land challenges but, as the event drew near and as the enormity of the challenge dawned on us, it was decided that Amy and Roger would do Hungry Hill, Robert and Michael (the marathon runners) would do the 12.5km road race and Carrauntoohil and Sharon and John would do Mount Brandon. Once we were all allocated a challenge, it was easier to settle down and get our heads around our individual challenges.
In preparation for the challenge the boat was brought to Castlepark Marina in Kinsale, where on the night before the challenge we enjoyed a great meal in ‘The Shack’, run by Stephen Duffy, former SSBC sailor. On the morning of the challenge we became a bit more business-like, making final preparations, including our safety briefing and finally making our way to Kinsale Marina for the formal bag check, official briefing and sizing up of the opposition!
The event kicked off at 5pm with a 12.5km fort to fort race around Kinsale. Robert took off at a pace determined to beat the young ones, while Michael kept all of us back on the boat amused and up to date with progress with a series of selfies. While we did not win the 12.5km race, we were not far behind and knew we could catch the other boats on the water.
When we set sail there was a good wind and it was dry and bright. We knew the forecast was for the winds to pick up to over 30 kts but we were all in good spirits and tucked into our first meal of the voyage. At around 11pm we casually wondered if it was as dark as it was going to get for the night – it wasn’t. As the storm came up, bringing the forecasted wind and rain, it got very dark indeed. Thanks to the tracker we could monitor the progress of the other teams, and saw The Lady Buoys pulling in for shelter relatively early on. As we set our sights on Team Trionium 2 and PullTheMiddleRope, the storm intensified. We had two team members succumb to sea sickness and the rest of us (one in particular) were soaked. Our spirits were lifted by the fact that we had now passed Team Trionium 2 and PullTheMiddleRope, but ultimately, at around 3am we made the decision to pull in to Baltimore for shelter. As we changed course, we initially thought that we were being followed by the other two teams but after a while we saw Team Trionium 2, change course and disappear into the distance. Navigating our way into Baltimore in the storm as not the easiest task, noting a major block of light in the middle of the bay (which turned out to be a naval vessel) and many more mooring buoys than you would ever care to see. We eventually tied up against a couple of other boats along a pier, with PullTheMiddleRope tying onto us. When we asked them what they thought when they saw us changing course to pull in to Baltimore, they said “thank God, for that”!
We had a very pleasant time in Baltimore, drying out and recovering. There were some lovely walks and a great holiday atmosphere in the town. Thanks again to the tracker, we could see Team Trionium 2 making their way up Hungry Hill – should we have kept sailing we wondered! It was early to bed on Sunday night so that we could be up and sailing by first light Monday morning.
With everyone in dry clothes and feeling very well, we set sail for Adrigole. It was such a pleasant sail in comparison – reasonable wind, dry and more importantly, day light. As we approached Adrigole, we had the dinghy at the ready and John rowed to shore to set Amy and Roger on their way to tackle Hungry Hill. We then moored a short distance from the pier and following the nicest cheese and crisp sandwiches you could ever imagine, had a lovely lazy day waiting for their return.
Shortly after we set Amy and Roger ashore, PullTheMiddleRope arrived. They had a slightly more difficult time setting their walkers ashore, but that is their story to tell. We followed progress on the tracker and were delighted to see Amy and Roger maintain their lead over their 7 hour 35 minute hike. The terrain was difficult, and it was very misty on top in parts. Amy and Roger were glad they had done their homework and were also grateful to the advice to keep left, from the lads on PullTheMiddleRope who, rather advisably had climbed the route the week previously.
At around 20:35, Monday evening, the tide was such that we were able to pick Amy and Roger from the pier with the cruiser and set sail for Templenoe. The forecast was for light winds and it was slow going at first. What wind was there, was at our back and helped by this and the tide we made reasonable progress. The sea was very sloppy around Dursey Island and it was very difficult to keep the boat on course. As we went up Kenmare bay towards Templenoe, the wind picked up very nicely. At the same time, on the tracker, we could see Team Trionium 2 becalmed as they tried to leave Templenoe. Eventually, we passed Team Trionium 2 and as the wind picked up for them, we hit a small wind hole ourselves. We under estimated the shallowness of the water at Templenoe and with the dinghy at the ready and Michael and Robert in their cycling gear ready to go, we ran aground. Reassuring us all that the keel is made of steel, John gave us all instructions to pull the sail this way or that and move our weight here and there and after what seemed like ages (but was only a short time) we got free and Robert and Michael hopped into the dinghy to row ashore.
Robert and Michael in the dinghy was a sight to behold and our amusement gave way to laughter when the paddle broke off the oar. Despite this, they made it ashore where two bespoke bicycles provided by Finnegans Cycles were waiting on the shore. Shore support, provided by Donal Dwyer, enabled running repairs to the oar using the ever trustworthy Duck tape.
Once again we sat back to relax as the two lads set off on their challenge. It was very reassuring to follow them on the tracker but as time went on we were concerned that they would not make it back before dark. We knew it was too shallow to bring the boat close to shore to pick them up and we were concerned at the thought of them rowing, what was a fair distance, in a very small dinghy to the boat in the dark. Given that they were using our only dinghy, we would have had no way to rescue them. We had a small outboard engine on board and if we were doing this challenge again, we would ensure the engine was on the dinghy for back-up / safety purposes. It might even be worth the organisers considering whether an engine on the dinghy should be compulsory.
At one stage we got a call from Robert and Michael to say that they hadn’t quite reached the summit and they were considering getting a B&B to do it again the next day. We thought a bottle of wine with our dinner, followed by a restful night sleep on a swinging mooring might be a good plan. As dinner was ready we got a further call to say they were nearly back at the boat and wanted to keep going! All thoughts of the wine and restful night sleep disappeared as it was all hands on deck to prepare to sail.
Needless to say, it was a long night-sail again, Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. This time however, there was no storm and the boat just glided through the water. A totally different experience. The main challenge was trying to leave the Skelligs behind. Every time we tacked, rather than leave them behind, we just saw them from a different angle. Again, thanks to the tracker, we could see Team Trionium 2 in Dingle. They had obviously decided to get a nights sleep but when they sent a picture of Dingle at 04:30 hours on the Wednesday morning, we knew they were on the move. We still had over 6 hours sailing to go.
We arrived in Dingle around 11am. Sharon and John had their backpacks on, ready to go. We knew it could take us up to 12 hours to walk the 32 km round trip and that we would have to move at a good pace to get back before dark. Roger, recovered from his trip up Hungry Hill decided to keep us company. The sun was shining and we set off with a plan to just put one foot in front of the other, apply Voltarol gel regularly along the way and to turn back after 5 hours if we did not think we would make it. We had great weather. The cliffs were all where we expected them to be. The ‘near vertical bog’ was not just ‘nearly’ vertical. On our way up, we met the two runners from ‘The Lady Buoys’ on their way down. They had youth on their side and looked fresh as daisies. They completed this part of the ISAMAC in 6 hours and 58 minutes. It took us 11 hours and 20 minutes. We did think about turning back. In fact Roger (and I don’t blame him) left us at the summit to take the shorter route down. But, this was our Everest and we are delighted we stuck with it.
When we arrived back at John Bennys pub, we went to go in the front door. The pub was hushed quiet as there was a traditional Irish singer singing a soft lilting ballad. So as not to disturb this lovely scene and knowing that everyone from the ISAMAC were gathered down the back of the pub, we decided to go into the pub via the back entrance. Considering they had all now been waiting for us for several hours, the cheer we got was loud and raucous. We should have just gone in through the front door!
So what key learning points can we offer to teams considering this challenge next year?
1. If at all possible, do a dry run on each land leg, particularly Hungry Hill and Carrauntoohil, in advance of the challenge
2. Make yourself familiar with suitable place for pulling into in the event of bad weather at sea
3. Templenoe is very shallow and when the tide is out, you will have to anchor a fair distance from the shore which could make rowing to and from the boat challenging, particularly in bad weather or in darkness
4. There is nothing like a cup of tea and a Rocky bar in the middle of a cold, dark, wet night at sea!
The first-ever Irish Sailing and Mountaineering Adventure Challenge (the ISAMAC) took place from 16 June 2018, attracting three intrepid teams. One team dropped out with debilitating sea-sickness after 12 hours of the race. Another team had to retire after their yacht suffered multiple gear failures, but they continued on by land and completed all of the land-stages. The third team, Sasseknackered, completed all of the sailing legs and all of the land-stages, and so became the only finishers and first winners of the inaugural ISAMAC. It CAN be done! After the race, donations have been made to the RNLI and Kerry Mountain Rescue.
ISAMAC 2018 write-up by Tom Murray, skipper of Ocean Eagle
ISAMAC 2018 write-up by Peter Munro-Lott, skipper of Sasseknackered
ISAMAC 2018 write-up by Robert McCaffrey, race organiser and skipper of Team Trionium
Below: The crews and Marshals before the start of the ISAMAC 2018.
Below: The 2018 race route and team progress on YellowBrick http://yb.tl/isamac2018
ISAMAC 2018 The Ocean Eagles' experience
Our team was assembled before Christmas after I spotted a small notice in Practical Boat Owner of the inaugural sailing mountain adventure challenge. Our Team was made up of a mix of sailors, cyclists, mountaineers, runners but more importantly all had a spirit for adventure.
Our Team was made up as follows
Tom Murray Skipper, Boat Owner, Cyclist and adventure race entrant
Gerry Crowley Mountain Guide, Cyclist, and adventure racer,
Susan Steele Marathon runner, endurance athlete, cyclist, sailor
John Murray, Pilot, Navigator, runner, cyclist and Sailor
Tom Corcoran Chef, cyclist and adventure racer
Being the local team we undertook extensive training and had the advantage of been able to recce the course and had completed all aspects of the Course prior to the start over a period of time. The long hard winter hampered outdoor training. The week before the start we all climbed Carruntoohill and we were all looking forward to completing the race.
Our boat is a Tradewind 33 designed to sail the world oceans. Due to the bad weather conditions and the never-ending winter a planned engine replacement took longer than planned so we only got the boat launched in the middle of May and did not get much sea -time training together.
I delivered the boat from Courtmacsherry to Kinsale on the eve of the race and met the other crews and enjoyed an evening with them in Kinsale enjoying the local pubs. Being locked out of the Marina at 12.30am for over a hour in the rain due to a faulty card was not ideal preparation for the race but having finally gained access I enjoyed a good night’s sleep.
Our crew joined the next day and we stocked the boat with ample supplies including great meals prepared by our on-board Chef Tom C. After completing our safety check and entry requirements we were ready for the off. John and Susan did a great job completing the running and soon we were sailing south out of Kinsale. We decided to reef before rounding the Old Head as winds from the West were strengthening and the boat was happier once in place. We knew that we were in for a rough night but the usually reliable WindGuru was predicting moderating winds during the night. We decided to sail long offshore tacks along the Coast as the West Cork Coast line has few lights and has plenty of lobster pots closer to the shore. The first crew member got sick just after the old head but had advised that this would happen so it was not unexpected and quickly recovered.
As night was drawing in we received a Securité notice on the VHF with a small craft warning for our sea area that winds would increase to 6 or 7 during the night. Certainly, we were experiencing strong winds but the boat was powering through it. Unfortunately, more crew members became sick as conditions worsened and I ended up sailing the boat through the night.
As I sailed through the night I was actually looking forward to doing the Carauntoohill stage which we had trained hard for.
Our boat has no instruments on deck apart from a compass which made it very difficult to navigate. I knew however approximately where we were and that we were offshore and clear of any hazards. We had a waypoint on our GPS marked just West of Cape Clear and the plan was to tack to it. At one stage we had a problem with an accidental tack which resulted in the genoa car jumping out of the track. This involved me having to go up on deck suitably harnessed and apparently was the only time I shouted during the race when I told one the crew members to "keep the f……g torch on me." While we fixed the problem and sailed on as dawn broke with poor visibility and all the crew sick and with me having been up all night we decided it would be wise to head to a safe port and regroup. Due to poor visibility we decided to sail to Glandore as Baltimore would have involved a further slog into the wind and waves which I did not think the crew and at this stage myself would be up for. We finally saw land as we approached High Island and tied up in Union Hall at 6.45am. Once we cleaned up the boat and washed away the evidence of the 'mal de mer,' we decided to retire as conditions were not going to improve. We enjoyed a light breakfast on board and the crew headed home around 10.15. As we were tied to a trawler I stayed with the boat and enjoyed a great sleep catching up on what I had missed from the night before.
Gerry and Tom C were planning to drive to Templenoe and do the cycle and climb but decided to wait for me and to get back and to do Brandon instead on Tuesday. I moved the boat to a friend’s mooring in Castletownsend on Monday. We got up early Tuesday morning and drove to Dingle, only to be greeted by very low fog and rain. Gerry is an experienced Mountain Guide and advised against proceeding so after a coffee we headed home.
We as a crew were very disappointed that we had to retire so early in the race. Our boat was fine and suffered no issues and performed well in the conditions. Our decision to retire was taken on safety grounds due to the level of seasickness onboard. Two of our crew had never got sick before and one had been a commercial fisherman. In hindsight we would possibly have been better off sailing closer to shore but with few navigation visual aids and the danger of lobster pots we felt it was safer to go offshore where we perhaps encountered bigger seas.
We have to admire team Sasseknackered for finishing the course and winning the race and Team Trionium for achieving what they did. We hope to be back next year although one or two crew members were expressing plans to retire from sailing!!
Well done and thanks to Rob and his team for conceptualising and organising the race.
Team Ocean Eagle
Photos of the ISAMAC 2018 from the crew of Sasseknackered
ISAMAC 2018: The Sasseknackered Experience
The Sasseknackered team has a few nautical and land miles between them and has been together since 2010. We have strict division of labour, runners run and sailors sail. Experience, tenacity and the fortifying benefits of a couple of Guinness the night before were our strengths. A short test sail in the morning told us that our yacht ‘Hope' was fast, the breeze strong and the sea getting lumpy.
The Forts of Kinsale
It started well. The weather in Kinsale was warm and dry, and all the running teams finished the 12.5k two forts run within a few minutes of each other. Initially flat, the course became lumpier towards the end. Dennis the Ironman and his teammate took an early lead and he graciously stopped to take a photo of us as he was running back from the second fort. A modern day “tortoise and hare” if you will, but for the fact that they still won.
Kinsale into the dark night
Swiftly away, sails up and Ride of the Valkyries blasting out under a sunny sky we slowly gained on the Trionium yacht and passed them in Kinsale Bay. With wind and sea building there followed a phase of follow the leader as the two boats tacked their way to the West, electing to take an offshore route. This continued until night fell and we had passed Kinsale Head when the full effects of the Force 6-7 and confused sea began to take effect on the crew and our ability to follow the desired course. However, we persevered and whilst not at our most efficient and under reduced sail we stayed in the race and pulled away from the other boats. The yellow brick tracker app meant we could see their tracks and surmise that like us, the conditions were having an effect. Darkness ebbed into grey dawn, Cape Clear was sighted and fatigued spirits lifted although solid food remained off the menu. Runners surfaced from their cocoons below to enquire how the night had gone and received mostly monosyllabic answers. The sea moderated though and the wind steadied as we rounded Mizen Head onto the northerly leg and relatively plain sailing to the anchorage at Adrigole and a row ashore to launch the runners up Hungry Hill. We had planned for a 10 to 14 hour sail, it took 17 hours of which at least 8 we’d rather not repeat.
The weather on Hungry Hill was less welcoming, with strong winds and limited visibility at the top. We left our tracker onboard and our teammate had to row back to get it, delaying us a little but proving the value of the mandatory kit checks. We jogged the road sections at both ends, but the rest of the trip was a solid hike. We took a wrong bearing at the top of Derryclancy, descending too soon rather than following the ridge and, although we managed to scramble back up again, lost considerable time. Adrigole Mountain was more distinct and offered fantastic views over the harbour and our waiting boat. We had been warned during the race briefing that the path down to the road was easy to miss and, true to form, we missed it. Luckily, the farmer whose fields we cut through was nowhere to be seen.
Adrigole pause and onto Templenoe
A time to regroup, check timings, tides and crew fatigue. The determining factors were the tides around Dursey Head and did we really want another night sail. Neptune smiled on us to the extent where there was no advantage in sailing that night and to consensual relief we spent the night at anchor. The next day dawned brighter and by 6am we were underway again, in good spirits, well rested and fed. With a prevailing WSW wind and a reduced swell we made good time tacking down to Dursey Head and then shifting north and then east up the Kenmare River. The visibility steadily improved as did crew morale and there was even a hint of sun as we snuck into Templenoe anchorage. At this point the depth gauge decided to fail but with some old school use of a lead line we safely anchored 10 hours after departing Adrigole, in daylight and ahead of the pack.
Carrauntoohil was a delight and probably the highlight of our trip. Brian Finnegan of Finnegan’s Cycles had dropped two bikes off for us the day before at the house nearest the quay and we set off for the Ballaghbeama Gap in the late afternoon light. The roads were very quiet and the views stunning. The bikes were geared for speed and, officially to save our legs, we walked them up the particularly steep last few hundred meters to the head of the pass before enjoying the long freewheel down. The hike up the mountain was equally enjoyable: Navigation was made simpler by following the fence line and we reached the summit at sunset with the clouds below us and the wind dying down to a cooling breeze. The Irish Mountain Running Association’s website lists a round-trip record of one hour fifteen minutes, less than a third of the time it took us. Shouldn’t have stopped for that photo, I guess. Head torches and lights on, we saw around fifty sheep and one car on the two-hour ride back to the quay.
Fair winds to Dingle
The Templenoe anchorage is small but a place of beauty. The runners return at 3.45am heralded a swift departure or it would have been had our previously mentioned lead line expertise not been 20cm out meaning we were just aground. However, time and time etc and half an hour later we picked up the forecast light easterly to mistily take us back down the river and into open water. The forecast for a westerly freshening to force 5-6 kept the pressure on and revived memories of the first night. The boat handled well and the visibility lifted to reveal Skellig Island (cultural reference, it’s the one Luke Skywalker hides on...). The Dingle coast came into sight as the weather chased us in. At this point the headship shackle broke but by now we were beyond caring, Dingle awaited us and nobody wanted to move to the bow to repair it so we flapped on. On cue, as ordered from the Dingle tourist office, Fungi the resident dolphin greeted us and with a mix of relief and sadness we tied up in the excellent marina and set the runners away again.
Mount Brandon proved to be our biggest challenge. We abandoned our first attempt on the Tuesday afternoon at about the half-way point, facing very high winds, driving rain, poor visibility and the prospect of a night-time descent. Safely back in Dingle that evening the wind picked up further and we were confident we’d made the right decision in turning back when we did. With a view to the holiday we’d promised ourselves, we chose not to repeat the attempt on the Wednesday, accepting that we’d not finish the race. That was until we heard that Team Trionium had done it, and in a great time too. Girding our loins and pulling on our damp, cold leggings, we set off once again early on the Thursday morning. With warm sunshine, light winds and fantastic views across the whole peninsula, we jogged up to the finish line at John Benny’s pub in a round-trip time of seven hours fifteen minutes. Out of sheer bloody-mindedness, blistered, and with knees a good ten degrees warmer than the rest of our bodies, we had finally made it!
1. If you arrive in Kinsale early enough and have a car or a bike, take the opportunity to “walk” the course beforehand.
2. Don’t worry about losing a few minutes to your competition on this first run: Any difference will be lost to the subsequent overnight sail and there’s enough room in the bay for everyone.
3. Try to build a mental picture of the mountain stages by reviewing videos, photos, blogs and sources other than just the maps. These are generally 1:50,000 rather than 1:25,000 and lack more detailed features such as fences.
4. Goretex socks are a worthwhile investment. Bring three pairs and three pairs of leggings, as they’ll get soaked in the bogs even when the sun’s out. And bring mobile phone chargers, fully charged.
5. If you’re hiring bikes, contact Brian Finnegan two or three weeks beforehand. He can supply lights, spare tubes, pumps, multitools, etc., so you can leave those at home. The road surface is generally fine for road bikes.
6. The restaurants in Dingle are first class. We particularly enjoyed Fenton’s and Out of the Blue. Booking ahead is worthwhile.
Photos of the ISAMAC 2018 by Dennis Earl, on Flickr
We had previously taken part in the Scottish Islands Peaks Race and the Three Peaks Yacht Race, so we were able to put together a 'dream team' of experienced all-rounders, who knew what they were getting themselves into: Stuart Aikman, Dennis Earl, Kate Standeven and the skipper's twin brother Lewis McCaffrey, who flew from New York to take part in the race. The crew assembled on the Friday, the day before the start of the race, and on the Saturday of the race, due to various logistics challenges (Kate's plane from Bristol was cancelled and Lew's bag went to Oslo - he picked it up at the end of the race in Kinsale). During a convivial meet-up with the other crews at Kinsale Yacht Club and later at the Tap Tavern in Kinsale, Tom Murray (skipper of the OceanEagles team) made a prophetic warning that the rigours of the sailing legs had been underestimated. On Saturday morning we did our shopping at SuperValu, which did not amount to much, including only basic meals for the four or five days of the race, and which excluded any alcohol, since we could not see any circumstances when we might want a drink before the end of the race.
At 2pm the crew attended the mandatory kit-check, which was conducted by the race organiser's parents, brother and partner, who acted as marshals throughout the race. At 4pm I gave a welcome and race briefing to the assembled crews. Several changes to the race rules were agreed upon, including reversing the route of the Hungry Hill land leg (a very useful suggestion from Susan Steel of Ocean Eagles), and additional use of the engines being allowed on the approach into Adrigole. The 'inside passage' of Dursey Island through Dursey Sound was banned.
At 5.50pm, the crews reassembled by the entrance to Kinsale Yacht Club's marina, and the 'winner' of the 'oldest crew' prize was awarded, being Sasseknackered with a combined age of 270 years, edging local team Ocean Eagles into second (263 years) and with Team Trionium the relative youths with only 250 years between them. So, all the crews were of 'a certain age.'
At 6pm on the dot, the two runners from each team started off on the Two Forts Run, round James Fort, passing back through Kinsale and heading out to Charles Fort, before finishing back at the marina. Team Trionium's two runners, Dennis and Kate, took an early lead, and cruised to a three-minute victory in 61 minutes, over Sasseknackered, with Ocean Eagles in third a few minutes later.
Runners then scrambled on board and yachts went under engine power out into Kinsale Bay. Team Trionium spent valuable minutes going head to wind to put up the mainsail (with one reef, which stayed put throughout), and was quickly caught up by the slick sailors of Sasseknackered. Sailing out towards the Old Head of Kinsale, Sasseknackered's sailing expertise shone through and their boat, 'Hope,' took a lead that it was never to relinquish. Sailing on a long starboard tack (in a southwesterly) in order to round Kinsale Head, the wind started to rise as the boats first encountered the Atlantic swell left over from Storm Hector, which had passed nearby a few days earlier. The night came in slowly, but with thick cloud cover it became as dark as a coal hole. Tacking onto a port tack allowed easier navigation due to the existence of a few shore lights, but the starboard tack, the 'making tack,' had no navigational marks to steer by at all, and was a lumpy course through the waves and swell. For a while Team Trionium's Hanse 40 matched Sasseknackered tack for tack, until dark finally meant that we could see them no longer. We used the mast-head light of Ocean Eagles for navigation for an hour or so, since they were on a parallel course. We had two watches, and I was on the 10-1pm watch with Lewis and Kate. While off-watch, at about midnight, Stuart lost his glasses. Being practically blind without them, he spent at least three hours trying to locate them, finally working out that he had accidentally dropped them down a small hole between the bulkhead and the interior storage. He did go on the helm for his watch but he says he was steering by 'wind-sense' alone. Dennis had succumbed to a protracted bout of sea-sickness from midnight onwards, and he struggled with vomiting and nausea well into the Sunday, leaving him tired and somewhat enervated.
Little did we know that during this tough night, with Force 7 winds and a confused sea, that team Ocean Eagles has become disabled through the sea-sickness of all of the crew apart from the skipper. At around 5.30am, they made the decision to seek shelter, finally putting into port at Unionhall around 8.00am, where they officially retired from the race.
During the night, we had put in several tacks in order to round Clear Island, followed by one large tack in order to round Mizen Head. Unfortunately, the heads had apparently broken during the night, leaving us with an over-flowing toilet, which we only managed to clear with the use of the shower tray drain pump. We also discovered in the night that we had lost depth and wind information, and that the GPS was not being displayed below. The GPS display on deck also became dimmer, along with the compass binnacle light, and we finally realized that we had a problem with some of the electrics on the boat. With the return of the daylight, we lost the use of the VHF, and finally discovered that we had no instruments onboard. We tried running the engine in neutral, but to no avail. Around day-break, a pod of dolphins played around the bows of the boat. We rounded Brow Head, Mizen Head and Three Castle Head, but we miscounted the headlands in the murk and started to sail up Dunmanus Bay, mistaking Sheep Head for Bear Island. Finally on a much easier point of sail and with the seas moderating, we found ourselves with a dilemma off the entrance to Bear Haven and the marina and facilities of Lawrence Cove on Bear Island: go into the marina and get the boat fixed, or head into Adrigole Harbour with no facilities with no GPS and no depth sounder. After several minutes of painful vacillation on my part, after consulting the charts again and finding Adrigole Harbour to be relatively clear of off-lying dangers, we resolved to head into Adrigole, which also gave us the opportunity to continue the race. Arriving off the pier, we were surprised to find that the electrical anchor windlass did not work, although we really shouldn't have been. Being at that moment unprepared to put the anchor down manually, we picked up a visitor's mooring buoy. We arrived at Adrigole at around 4pm, phoned the boatyard to tell them of our problems, and resolved to head up Hungry Hill. Lewis and I were dog-tired as we started off, being put ashore by dinghy and shambling along the rocks back to the pier for our 5-minute self-administered kit-check (the marshals having already left for the next destination, Templenoe). We realised that we had left the YellowBrick tracker behind and had to get Dennis in the dinghy to retrieve it for us (Sassenknackered had done exactly the same three hours earlier). We trotted along the road around Adrigole Bay, and took the rustic farm track into the heart of the hills, before setting off uphill towards the ridge. Cloud base was at 300m, so we ascended into the cloud in increasing wind and whipping drizzle. We were both staggering around with bad sea-legs, so that when we found the stone-built beacon at 570m and the wind got up to probably 35mph, we found it a fairly easy decision to retreat back downhill, not being likely to finish the ridge in daylight. We ambled back to the boat, jealous to some degree that Sasseknackered had forged onwards. We named a dog that followed us for a while 'Iggy,' after the ignominy that we felt at having retreated. After Lewis had half fallen-in getting back into the dinghy, the dog tried to swim with us back to the boat. As we got back onto the boat, we were pleased to realise that Stuart had retrieved his glasses after about 8 hours of work, finally succeeding with a contraption made of coat hangers, fishing wire and fishing hooks, guided by a mobile phone video camera. Stuart was back! Dennis was also a bit livelier. We were all very glad of the overnight rest. Sasseknackered also rested overnight, heading off very early in the morning towards Templenoe.
On Monday morning we waited for James to arrive from Kinsale to fix the few problems with the boat. We shifted the boat and manually put the anchor down, just off the end of Adrigole pier. As James arrived, we mentioned that we had also seen some white smoke coming from the exhaust. We had decided to have another go at Hungry Hill, while James worked on the boat. With faffage, we finally got away on the land stage at 2.30pm. Lewis and I got up to the stone-built beacon at 570m altitude substantially quicker than we had the day before, feeling fresher and knowing the route. When we arrived there though, we discovered that conditions were actually worse than the day before, with more wind and less visibility, being down to 20m at times. We decided that our redemption rested on our success, so we forged onwards. From this point, up to Hungry Hill and all along the ridge, we used compass bearings, map and distance walked (on legs of 200-700m in length) in order to proceed. Finally, at the far end of the ridge, we dropped out of the cloud near Carbery Pool, enjoying a romp over the bogs and the greenery of Ireland on the way down the last hill to the road. Having the challenges behind us, we jogged along the road back to the pier, being just a little bit sad that Iggy was not there to welcome us. we finished this attempt in 6:08:05 (although since we had started the attempt the day before, our total elapsed time was over 26 hours, since the clock does not stop between attempts). Dennis, Stuart and Kate were at the pier to welcome us, albeit with mixed news: the boat could go no further and our charter was at an end. The combined problems with the electrics (a faulty electric splitter meant that two domestic batteries and the windlass battery were not being charged, hence the electronics sequentially failing), the heads (finally traced a few days later to a wretched wet-wipe clogging the system, thankfully not us/ours), and the engine problem (fouled injectors), meant that our official race was over. All of our stuff had been taken off the boat, and we were given a lift to Hungry Hill Lodge, a well-appointed hostel nearby. Dennis cooked-up a huge and delicious chilli, and we washed it down with plenty of beer. Despite this seemingly near-terminal development, we rapidly decided that we would complete the race as well as we were able.
On Tuesday morning at 9.30, a taxi arrived to collect Dennis, Kate and Stuart. They picked up an extra bike in Kenmare from Finnegan's Cycles, and were dropped off at Templenoe, to start cycling at 11am. The valiant teams from Sasseknacked had started that very route at 4pm the previous day, only finishing at 3.30am (having seen a stunning sunset from above the clouds on their way up Carrauntoohil). Once Sasseknackerded's runners arrived back at the boat after a 500m dinghy row, they discovered that they were aground and had to wait 40 minutes to go afloat. They were already on their way towards Dingle as our team started the Carrauntoohil land leg. In the meantime, Lewis and I got a lift to Cork airport with James to pick up a big estate car capable of taking five sailors and a week's worth of gear: we then drove via a meal of Irish stew and Guinness (and live Irish music) in Kenmare, to Templenoe in order to pick up the team. The YellowBrick trackers allowed us to time our arrival perfectly. They had had a great leg, with no problems, although like the other team they had had to push their 'under-geared' bikes up the last stages of the Ballaghbeama pass. The upper sections of Carrauntoohil were in cloud, but conditions were not as bad as they could have been. They stopped for an ice cream and a drink on the cycle back and seemed in very good spirits, happy to have ticked off another land stage. We locked up the bikes, leaving the key in the lock as requested, and drove on to our airBnB in Dingle. We were all tired, so after a quick bite to eat, we all went off to our feather beds.
In the meantime, the Sasseknackered team had had a fabulous sail in Hope to Dingle during Tuesday and had landed their runners in the mid-afternoon of Tuesday (as we were completing Carrauntoohil) at Dingle marina. Brothers Simon and Andy set off immediately, but were beaten back by atrocious weather half way to Mount Brandon, returning the way they had come.
However, we arose on Wednesday to find a glorious day in prospect. All five of us set out from John Benny's pub at 10am, thrutching up the bogs of the foothills and enjoying stunning scenery along the airy upper ridges, and gained the top of Mount Brandon after 4:20. Lewis and Stuart decided to descend down the tourist route and hitched back to Dingle, taking around 90 minutes to do so. Myself, Kate and Dennis cracked on down the descent, arriving at the col at 200m within one hour of leaving the top. We really ran as fast as we could, and ran down into Dingle, to finish at John Benny's pub two hours and ten minutes after leaving the top, for a total round-trip time of 6:43:43.
We were warmly welcomed into the pub by the marshals (Danni and Sam, Mac and Val), and were shortly joined by four of the crew of Sasseknackered. Much chat and banter ensured, followed by the race prize-giving. Due to the somewhat chaotic first night and following enforced retirement of Team Trionium, Sasseknackered was the runaway official winner of nearly all the legs, only being beaten on the Two Forts Run. John Coombs was awarded a ceremonial mars bar for being skipper of the year (for having the foresight to load up all the charts onto his smart phone, for keeping his crew together to the end of the race and for old-school use of the lead-line while entering Adrigole Harbour with another instrument failure). Peter Munro-Lott was awarded a prize for 'meritorious vomiting,' after discovering the worst patch of sea in a sailing career that included 30 years in the Royal Navy. Lewis McCaffrey was awarded a tin of sardines for traveling the furthest to take part in the race (from Marcellus, New York state). During further discussions, the runners from Sasseknackered were implored to finish the course and to hence complete the race by completing the Dingle to Brandon ridge the following day. Our crew ate and watered well in John Benny's pub, and slept the sleep of the just. We went surfing in Inch on our way back towards Kinsale, staying at an exceptional airBnB near Bantry, visiting Baltimore and Skibbereen, and finally finishing with a pleasant evening meal aboard a kindly donated-for-the-evening yacht in Kinsale, before all dispersing to the four corners. What a challenge: What an adventure!
On the Thursday, Simon and Andy from Sasseknackered started their run from Dingle to Mount Brandon at 5.30am, and completed it some seven hours later, becoming the first team to complete the ISAMAC. It CAN be done!
ISAMAC Awards 2018
Fastest at the Two Forts Race in Kinsale: Team Trionium (61:00)
Fastest on each hill leg:
Hungry Hill: Sasseknackered (6:25:00) - Special mention Team Trionium (6:08:05 running time, 2nd attempt)
Carrauntoohil: Sasseknackered (10:40:00) - Special mention Team Trionium (10:06:00 land-based)
Dingle-Brandon Ridge: Sasseknackered (7:15:00) - Special mention Team Trionium (6:43:43 land-based)
Fastest aggregate of all hill legs: Sasseknackered (24:20:00) - Special mention Team Trionium (22:57:48, partially land-based)
Fastest on each sailing leg:
Kinsale to Adrigole: Sasseknackered (17:06:08)
Adrigole to Templenoe: Sasseknackered (10:38:08)
Templenoe to Dingle: Sasseknackered (10:00:00)
Fastest aggregate for all sailing legs: Sasseknackered (37:44:16)
Fastest overall: Sasseknackered (114:30:00) - no other team finished the race in 2018.
Best pre-race publicity effort: Team Trionium!
Best race video: Team Trionium
Best race write-up/blog: Dead heat, Ocean Eagles, Sasseknackered and Team Trionium.
Oldest crew to finish: Sasseknackered
Last yacht to finish: Sasseknackered
Best race photograph: Sasseknackered - 'Thirsty work, this ISAMAC': (Once I finish these four pints, I'll drink the candle too).
Media coverage of the 1st ISAMAC:
Practical Boat Owner - September 2018